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Bowker – Amazon Dominates the World eBook Market

Kelly Gallegher, the VP of Publishing Services at RR Bowker gave an eye opening presentation at the conference today. RR Bowker has just completed a 120 country survey into consumer’s ebook buying habits, and today we got a look at some of the data.

The presentation was densely packed with info, and there was in fact more data on the slides than you can take in at one sitting. So I took pictures of slides. You can find the photos on Flickr.

If I get the slides I will post them, but until then I think the photos are worth a look.  The world ebook market is a lot more complex than you might think, and each country in the survey has its own market quirks.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • eReaders in the US market peaked at 70% in August 2011, PCs now under 10%
  • From November 2011 to January 2012, the percentage of ebook buyers went from 17% to 20% in the US
  • 35% of ebook buyers are power buyers, and they buy 60% of ebooks & spend 48% of the market
  • Print power buyers, on the other hand, only account for 22%, buy 53% books sold, and they account half the market
  • US ebook market might have hit a saturation point, given that growth has slowed down

And here are some details from the international market

  • fiction has its greatest appeal in developed countries
  • non-fiction & technical books have greater appeal in the emerging ebook markets
  • the PC is still the most popular reading device (all markets)
  • eReaders are the most popular reading device in the US, UK and smartphones win in South Korea
  • India & Brazil have the greatest potential for growth, both in terms of low resistance and high enthusiasm
  • Kobo has a major presence in South Korea (15%)

And as for Amazon, in almost every country where they have a local ebookstore they are the single largest source of ebooks. The one exception is France, where the Kindle Store loses out to "high street chains", collectively. Split those stores up (Fnac, for example) and Amazon probably wins there too.

Bowker also found that B&N doesn’t show up as having nearly the market presence I thought they did. Consumers reported them as having only 13% of the US market.

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fjtorres March 20, 2012 um 7:32 pm

B&N at 13%?
That is a lot less than their brag.
Unless Amazon runs even higher than the 60% (generally quoted) mark, that means Apple and Kobo are actually close to B&N.

Nate Hoffelder March 20, 2012 um 7:36 pm

Other sources (indies, publishers' and author’s websites) make up a bigger chunk than expected.

fjtorres March 20, 2012 um 8:38 pm

Which is great.
Nonetheless, Kobo was bragging of 8% US market share when they announced their sale. If B&N is 13% they would have very little to show for their B&M store availability.
I suspect there are methodology issues somewhere.

Sturmund Drang March 20, 2012 um 8:08 pm

The sample space I have to draw from is too small to be significant, but for what it is worth:

Half the iPad users I know don’t read
And those that do, read on and buy from Kindle.
Of course all the Kindle users I know are what was referred to here as power readers.

And IMHO, if Barnes and Noble is going to survive they have to start meeting Amazon’s prices.

Andrys March 20, 2012 um 8:31 pm

This is global, and B&N is U.S. only.

In fact, their own Nook customers *cannot* buy Nook books for their devices while outside of the U.S. That’s a big factor. I think we’re used to seeing what they say is their market share in the U.S.

Since they often misrepresent Amazon numbers and just plain Amazon info in general when doing comparisons with their Nooks (saying stupidly in their launch that Amazon was "not open" as B&N is and you’d be able to buy only Amazon things while B&N would have Netflix and Hulu.

They said these incorrect things while planning to repartition their later NookColor and then Nook Tablet to 1-gig for non-BN user files AND making sure BN customers cannot enable installation of Android apps from "unknown sources" using that regular Android setting.

I am a card-carrying BN member and want their store to stay in my neighborhood, but I don’t like the tendency of their execs (and therefore their trained reps) to misrepresent comparison0facts and to have obviously no effective opposition-research before making really ignorant statements in a launch. Most of us read during the KindleFire launch that Amazon already announced the KFire was in the hands of Netflix and Pandora.

Nate Hoffelder March 20, 2012 um 8:43 pm

No, the 13% is US only. The same slide also shows other markets in the 10 country survey and how each was split up..

Peter March 21, 2012 um 12:35 pm

In the slide I’m looking at, US ebook buyers report 13% a "purchase source" as "high street chains"- is that where you’re getting this number from?

Did they mention specifically calling out "nook" or "Barnes and Noble" as an option in the US, or where those the exact options presented to survey takers for that question?

If so- I think I can explain the results somewhat.

I own a nook, it is my preferred brand and represents 90% of my purchases.

I can’t speak for other nook owners, but I know that when I take a survey, and "amazon" and "ibooks" are listed as specific options, but "nook" is not, I simply close the survey down. I don’t know what a "high street store" is, and I don’t see the option I want to put down.

But more importantly, if I did fill out the survey, I would probably select "publishers, indie sellers, and/or direct sellers" because I do purchase a small number of epub files from those sources to read on my nook. Similarly, someone who has 70% nook books and 30% Amazon books would probably put down "Kindle". It’s not the best choice, but it is the best choice presented.

By contrast, someone who owns a Kindle or Ipad, but also purchases books elsewhere, wouldn’t have any real reason to pick one of the "other" categories unless they went out of their way to avoid Amazon/ Apple purchases altogether. Combined with high street retailers, the non-brand categories add up to 32%- which is just shy of what we usually see for nook, kobo and Sony combined, but provides no real insight between the three.

It’s a particularly egregious survey-taking error if they DID really list the nook as a specific option in the next slide- question order matters a lot in creating survey bias.

This isn’t to say Bowker did this intentionally, it was just poor survey design, if that’s what they did.

Nate Hoffelder March 21, 2012 um 8:32 pm

Good point. I’ll ask Bowker about this, but I suspect that the the labels on the chart are a transcription error. Bowker has been doing this survey in the US since 2009. I would think they would have it down pat by now..

Peter March 22, 2012 um 4:45 pm

Well, I rambled a bit.

I don’t think it’s a "bad" survey question, overall – it just tells us more about Amazon and Apple than it does about the nook.

As an aside, I would like to see survey companies start to look at ebook sales and ereader sales as two seperate markets.

Each company really has two different market shares- and going forward I see a lot more divergence between the two.

Geert March 20, 2012 um 8:43 pm

B&N changed its policy last year. If your account is registered with an US credit card, you can now buy ebooks anywhere in the world.

Tim March 21, 2012 um 5:31 am

The flickr link doesnt work.

Nate Hoffelder March 21, 2012 um 6:04 am


Mike Cane March 21, 2012 um 7:03 am

I just hit a slide I don’t believe. AUSTRALIA has the most eBook buyers? WTF?

Mike Cane March 21, 2012 um 7:05 am

And then the next slide shows that more respondents in INDIA bought an eBook in the paat year?!

Mike Cane March 21, 2012 um 7:08 am

OMG WTF, Bowker? From slide to slide you reorder the countries? How can anyone keep track? #UIFAIL

Mike Cane March 21, 2012 um 7:13 am

And Nate, you missed the real story. Go look at how many respondents downloaded from Apple’s store! My god! If Apple ever introduced a Retina Display 7″ iPad, it;d be game over for them all! As it is, I think we’ll now see an increase due to the 9.7″ Retina Display.

flyingtoastr March 21, 2012 um 9:40 am

The problem with their methodology is that it was an online survey. It means that the numbers on this survey are more skewed:
1) towards people who are already heavily tech-savvy
2) towards younger people who spend more time on the internet
3) towards people more likely to click a strange link in their inbox to answer a survey from some company they’ve never heard of

If they want to get accurate numbers they have to broaden their selection size to include non-internet surveys. I know (for instance) that in my area BN sells tons of NOOKs to retired older folks, who wouldn’t be very likely to answer an internet survey.

Mike Cane March 21, 2012 um 9:52 am

I’m glad I’m not the only one casting a jaundiced eye at this survey. I think anyone who uses it as a guide to making business decisions should be fired for being an idiot who lacks critical thinking ability.

Peter March 21, 2012 um 11:40 am

That’s true of all survey, but every data point is important.

fjtorres March 21, 2012 um 12:04 pm

Not all data points are created equal.
Right up front, an internet-only survey runs the risk of *under-counting* Kindle owners as there is a significant population of Kindle 3g owners who bought them precisely because they don’t *need* internet access.
And that is just one of the many possible caveats.
The methodology *may* be fine and valid but as described it doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies. I’d be careful of putting much weight on those numbers without further details.

Nate Hoffelder March 23, 2012 um 12:11 am

True, but I’m not convinced that the Kindle owners are buying from the device and not The on device ebookstore isn’t all that great on earlier models.

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Will Burrows December 17, 2012 um 10:15 pm

The first slide says 2010. Is this a two-year-old presentation, or 2-year-old stats? What book stores does the New Message from God need to be available in to be found worldwide?

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The data comes from late 2011.

Anonymous February 15, 2013 um 12:25 pm

[…] After some deep digging, I found some numbers from a presentation Bowker did back on March 20, 2012. […]

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