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Do Self-Published Titles Make Up 22% of UK eBook Market, or 30%?

4259676998_c8b2486a6e_bNielsen has worked its consumer survey magic and come up with a new estimate of the UK ebook market.

From The Bookseller:

Sales of self-published e-books accounted for 22% of the digital book market in the UK last year, the Nielsen BookInsights Conference today (23rd March) was told, although growth in overall e-book sales is continuing to slow. By contrast sales of audiobooks continued to rise strongly – up by more than a quarter in 2015.

Steve Bohme, research director at Nielsen Book UK, said self-published titles rose from 16% of the e-book market by volume in 2014 to over a fifth of the market (22%) in 2015.

At the same time he said e-book sales grew by 5% in volume in 2015 – a lower growth rate than in 2013 and 2014, leading to the e-book share of books only rising marginally last year by 1% to 27% of the market from 26% in 2014.

it’s funny he should say that self-published ebooks made up 22%, because other sources would put that figure much higher.

Back in November 2015 Data Guy turned the Author Earning Reports' spiders loose on the UK Kindle Store, and he found that self-published titles made up 40% of the titles on the best-seller list, and 30% of the revenue:

The Kindle Store dominates the UK market even more so than the US market, and for all intents and purposes it is the whole of the market (I wouldn’t argue if you called it a monopoly, even).

So which do you think is closer to being correct, Nielsen or Author Earnings Report?

Given what we learned about the AE Report at BDW, I have a higher confidence that the Report is correct than that Nielsen’s surveys would prove an accurate extrapolation of the aggregate UK consumer.

But that report is close to six months old, so the data is stale. But does that mean it’s no good?

image by MissMessie

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Mackay Bell March 23, 2016 um 4:06 pm

Yeah, I don’t believe Nielsen. I brought this up in the discussion on Passive Voice about industry complaints that Amazon isn’t "sharing" enough data. I think the real issue is that Amazon’s data (such as their top selling books) isn’t being manipulated enough to make big publishers look good. Nielsen is probably being much more accommodating in underestimating self-publishing sales to fit in with the meme about ebooks slowing and print stabilizing and everything being rosy in traditional publishing.

Mike Hall March 23, 2016 um 5:01 pm

It all depends on Nielsen’s methodology. I’m not saying it’s wrong, just that the article doesn’t give anything like enough information to judge it.

Collecting "information on consumer book purchasing of both print and e-books through all sources from 36,000 book buyers aged 13-84 in the UK" could give accurate results but so much depends on how these book buyers were selected and what data they collected.

If the book buyers are anything like me they’d not know or care who published the e-books they buy so Nielsen would need to identify title and author to define the publisher and there would no doubt be some wiggle room in the definition. How about the "uncategorised single-author" publishers?

And 36,000 sounds a lot but is it a giant panel reporting all their purchases in a year or did they just ask a random 3,000 per month what they’d bought recently? How did they recruit them? How did they validate their sample?

If someone approached me I’m afraid that I’d decline to take part but, if I agreed, I’d have no real idea what books I bought recently (other than "a lot") so unless they had me writing up a book buying diary the data would be extremely poor. I suspect that this would be the case for most book devotees; those who only buy one or two a month might be more reliable but a very small part of the market. Of course, Nielsen might actually have 36,000 people writing up their book buying diaries … but it sounds a little improbable.

Will Entrekin March 24, 2016 um 7:59 am

Yeah, even reading the article, it’s completely unclear how and what information is being collected. Are they tracking ISBNs? Did they call 36,000 people to ask?

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