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eBook Sales Up at Simon & Schuster, Hachette

The110708digital-book02 US ebook market was flat for 2013, right? Not according to Hachette and Simon & Schuster. The parent companies for these 2 major US publishers released their year-end financial statements, and they dropped a few details about ebook sales.

According to the French conglomerate Lagardère, revenues at their publishing division were up 1.9% in 2013 (across all units), reaching €2 billion. eBooks represented 10.4% of the division’s sales in 2013 (vs. 7.8% in 2012), with most of the digital revenue concentrated in the US and UK. eBook revenues represented a larger share of income in both countries:

In the US, in a stabilising market, Lagardère Publishing digital sales posted a strong increase (+33%) on the back of numerous best sellers, and represents 30% of Trade(3) sales (vs. 24% in 2012). In the UK, where the market is still rising, e-book sales increases by 42% and represent 27% of Adult trade sales vs. 20% in 2012.


CBS reported similar news yesterday. Overall revenues at Simon & Schuster rose  2.4%, to $809 million, in 2013. According to PW, S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy said that in 2013 digital sales increased about 22% over 2012, and accounted for approximately 27% of revenue for the year compared to 23% in 2012.

This actually comes as little surprise; Lagardère had previously reported a sizable increase in US ebooks sales for their last quarterly report, and I expected that the year end report would show a similar increase.

On a related note, HarperCollins also said in their last quarterly report that ebook sales were increasing (up 30% over the same quarter in 2012). HC’s fiscal year ends in September, so it’s a little  hard to reconcile their ebook revenues with a calendar year, but I will note that their next quarterly report should be due out in the next week or so. How much do you want to bet it will show an increase?

I think there’s a good chance that will happen, and if my guess is correct then we’re going to have a rather interesting quandary on our hands.

Three of the Big 5 publishers are reporting ebook revenues increasing at a time when the AAP reports that for most of 2013 the ebook market is flat. This leads me to wonder if the major publishers' ebook revenues are growing at the expense of their smaller competition.

Do you think we’re seeing the result of the end of agency pricing? No price controls means lower prices, and that means increased sales, right?

I actually hope I’m wrong on this point; I want the ebook market to increase. But even I see that I might be right. What do you think?



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Mackay Bell February 14, 2014 um 6:35 am

The question I have, given Hugh Howey’s bombshell report, is this: Is there a huge overall spike in the number of ebook sales in general? I mean, if some of the big 5 are seeing increases of 30% ebooks, and self-published author’s are getting close to 50% of total genre sales, doesn’t that mean a huge leap in ebooks year to year? At least way over a 30% increase in total ebook sales?

I wonder if we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. There might be a massive untapped audience for ebooks. As Hugh’s report indicates, there are a lot of underserved genres that the big 5 either wouldn’t or couldn’t provide enough books for.

For example, a fan of "sweet western romance" novels set in California might have only been able to find half a dozen new books to read a year. But might have been more than willing to read 12 if they were available. The fact that ebooks are both easier to find and generally cheaper, could mean that the market is just beginning to expand to audience demand.

fjtorres February 14, 2014 um 7:14 am

There has been a lot of speculation that the end of agency would "devastate" Indie sales but this is the first time I’ve seen anybody suggest the smaller traditional publushers might be at risk and the idea is…scary…
But it has merit.
Lots of merit.
People forget that Amazon refused to go Agency with anybody but the big boys so, like it or not, the rest of the tradpubs were on wholesale (and getting discounted) all along. There really were three camps and three ebook price bands: Agency at $13, small pubs around $7-$10, and indies at $3-10.
With the big boys dropping prices to where bestsellers average around $8, the majority of indies at $3-6 are safe. Not so the small fry.
While we have all been seeing imminent consolidation among the big boys, everybody forgot about the rest of the trads. Ouch.

Even if the AAP gang isn’t getting decimated yet, they are going to be seriously pressured by the next phase of the disruption. The big 5 are going to become the big 2 soon enough. But before that a lot of the smaller players are going to get eaten or squeezed out.

Good call, Nate.

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