Wild-A** Guess Says Amazon.com Book Sales up 46%, eBook Sales Up 6% in 2017

There’s a new “report” going around which says Amazon’s ebook sales grew by 6% last year, but it isn’t even worth the electrons required to store the webpage it’s on.

The report comes from OneClickDigital, a market analysis firm I have never heard of. You can read the report on their blog, or you can save some time and read the summary on TheBookseller.

Amazon.com’s book sales grew 46% to $3bn (£2.33bn) in the first half of 2017, while e-book sales increased 6% to $750m, making the book sector a “stable contributor” to the company’s overall success, according to e-commerce company One Click Retail.

One Click Retail uses a combination of website indexing, machine learning and proprietary software to estimate weekly online sales figures for Amazon. Its research determined that Amazon.com netted $136bn (£105.8bn) worth of sales across all categories in 2016. Of this total, it estimated that Amazon’s print book sales amounted to $4.7bn and e-book sales were $1.4bn in 2016.

Now that you’ve read it, go ahead and ignore it.

I have perused the report and come to the conclusion that it is worthless, because:

  • its research is lacking,
  • its methodology is kept hidden from readers, and
  • its conclusions are contradicted by other sources.

The problem with the background research is that this report makes the classic mistake of misconstruing industry revenue stats from the AAP and the UK Publisher’s Association. Like mainstream media, this report assumes that AAP stats reflect retail sales for the the entire US market.

The AAP will tell you that is not the case; they will tell you they release data about publisher revenue, not retail sales. They will also tell you that the data does not cover the entire US book publishing industry.

The other problem with the background research is that it missed at least one important resource: Author Earnings Report. This is an independent report on the ebook market, and it’s not mentioned anywhere.

And that is important because the AE Report recently released its own figures that contradict the report from OneClickDigital.

Back in March 2017 the Author Earning Report revealed that Amazon had around 80% of the $3.2 billion US ebook market, with about $2.53 billion in ebook sales.

OneClickDigital, on the other hand, said Amazon had $1.4 billion in ebook sales last year.

Given that we know how AE Report generates its estimates using methodologies that have been accepted by the industry, and yet know nothing about OCD’s methods, we can safely conclude that the latter’s report cannot be trusted.

Or at least that’s my opinion; what do you think of the report?

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. davemich22 August, 2017

    2nd sentence, you are saving time, not tome.

    1. Nate Hoffelder22 August, 2017

      Thanks. I fixed it.

  2. Frank23 August, 2017

    Based on the Big Five’s agency pricing all over the e-book market, I doubt anyone’s ebook sales is going up right now. That report is worthless.

  3. Mark Williams Int23 August, 2017

    OCR makes claim to significant accuracy – 98.5% – and while I wonder about these numbers from OCR, it’s important to bear in mind the limitations of the AE data.

    For example Data Guy looks at Amazon.Com sales and attributes them all to the US when as you yourself, Nate, have pointed out, the Amazon US ebook sales are not just from the US, but from all the non-Kindle countries that Amazon allows to buy from the Kindle store.

    Which means the accuracy of the AE Amazon US figures standing alone and as set against those of Apple, with US sales exclusively from the US, is in question.

    OCR’s ebook data is presumably exclusively for US sales. It seems improbably the difference can be explained away just by this factor, but it may be contributory.

    Also, AE factors in KU full reads as equivalent sales, while OCR appears to be looking solely at actual ebooks sold, not those read under the subscription service.

    Before dismissing the OCR report out of hand I’d be interested to learn more about the way these conclusions were arrived at and what data is actually counted.

    BTW the “March” AE Report was actually in February. 🙂

    1. Nate Hoffelder28 August, 2017

      “For example Data Guy looks at Amazon.Com sales and attributes them all to the US when as you yourself, Nate, have pointed out, the Amazon US ebook sales are not just from the US, but from all the non-Kindle countries that Amazon allows to buy from the Kindle store.”

      The only reason I make a note of that detail is because I want everyone to remember that you can’t actually separate the US sales from non-US sales. They are indistinguishable to everyone but Amazon.

      And I am fine with that because I think it is foolish to try to track single national markets when the US (and UK, for that matter) sellers ship all over the world.

      The proper market for a US publisher is the world, not the US.

  4. Mary24 August, 2017

    No, I would not believe it either considering that publishers are charging $14.95 for digital back list titles originally published in 1995.


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