We'll never have complete data on the ebook market, but if we had to judge by the reports from the major publishers then the news would not be good.
Both HarperCollins and Hachette have released quarterly reports this past week which show flat or declining revenues for the publishers.
According to PW, Hachette parent company Lagardère announced that its publishing revenues had dipped in the US, UK, and France:
Revenue at the Hachette Book Group USA fell 8.4% in the fourth quarter, and was down 4.8% for the year, parent company Lagardere reported. The drop, Lagardere said, was thanks to a stronger publishing lineup in 2013, as well as problems stemming from the publisher's standoff with Amazon over sales terms. Total revenue for Lagardere dropped 5.5%, to 2.00 billion euros for the year, and declined 3% in the final quarter, to 537 million euros.
E-book sales took a big hit at HBG in the fourth quarter, comprising 19% of trade sales in 2014 down from 27% in the fourth quarter of 2013. Once again, Lagardere blamed a stronger publishing schedule in 2013 and the Amazon dispute for the drop in e-book sales. For the full year, e-book sales accounted for 26% of all trade revenue, down from 30% in 2013.
While the unresolved contract dispute with Amazon might be to blame for the dip in US revenues, Hachette Livre also saw similar dips in the UK (4.6%) and in France (8.6%).
In related news, Lagardère also reported that ebook revenues accounted for 10.3% of sales across all publishing divisions in 2014, down from 10.4% in 2013. The decline is attributed to the US market, while in the UK ebook revenues rose, accounting for 31% of adult trade sales, up from 27% in 2013. eBook sales in France accounted for 3.8% of sales of the general literature group.
In contrast to Hachette, HarperCollins reported excellent growth last quarter, almost all of which can be attributed to the recent acquisition of Harlequin.
Newscorp (which is halfway through its fiscal year) reported that harperCollins' revenues reached $469 million last quarter, up 20% from the $391 million earned in the same quarter of 2013. They also confirmed that much of the increase was due to the addition of Harlequin's revenues, and that HC's revenues excluding Harlequin totaled $392 million.
eBook revenues at Harpercollins improved by 14% over the prior year period, again largely driven by Harlequin, and represented 17% of consumer revenues.
image by I am I.A.M.