Slides: Nielsen Details How Print Sales Have Declined Since the Rise of eBooks

Early in the third and final day of the DBW conference Jonathan Nowell, the President of Nielsen Book, shared new details about the rise of the US print book market in the years leading up to the modern ebook era – and how print sales declined in the years since.

You can find the complete slides at the end of the post, but the highlights include confirmation that mass market paperbacks took the biggest hit from the rise of ebooks, while nonfiction was much less affected.

neilsen slides dbw 2015

Given that everyone has already been saying that ebooks are predominantly fiction and that multiple textbook startups have failed in the past few years, this comes as no surprise. It’s just that we now have a graph to point to.

Actually, we have two graphs:

neilsen slides dbw 2015

And that doesn’t even count the third graph which explicitly calls out how fiction print sale were growing 20% in the 5 years before 2009, after which they declined 37%. General fiction took the 140% hit in the ebook era, with almost half of their sales going digital, while fantasy sales dropped 58% as a result of readers going digital. Curiously, murder/suspense saw a similar decline, albeit one which started long before the modern ebook era; Neilsen reported that segment dropped by 40% starting in 2005 (what’s up with that?).

Similarly, the US nonfiction market has been declining since 2007 – before the modern ebook era could have impacted it.

neilsen slides dbw 2015

If you ask me, this is a sign of the impact of expert info freely available online rather than a sign of the digital transition. Which could explain why nonfiction book sales haven’t really transitioned to digital; instead they were replaced by free content.

All in all, this is a good read.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. CJJ16 January, 2015

    Disposable income went down in 2008 as well. Can’t help but believe that had an effect.

    1. Nate Hoffelder16 January, 2015


  2. […] Neilsen showing print sales for fantasy novels dropping by 58% since the rise of ebooks, it is actually long past the time when these ebooks should have been […]

  3. […] Nowell, the President of Nielsen Book, laid out in his talk the week before last how print sales have declined with the rise of ebooks over the past 5 years, and I'm sure that's […]


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