Skip to main content

US Publishers Exported $21.5M eBooks in 2011 (The Real Figure is Higher)

The AAP is offering a new report this week. They’ve pulled together data from 161 or so US publishers who submit it and extracted information on the US book and ebook exports.  The report is for sale, but some details were released to the press. I embedded the info below, and I’ll summarize it before pointing out the fun ways in which the data is less than complete.

US publishers reported exporting $336 million (up 2.3% over 2010) in paper books and $21.5 million (up 333% over 2010) in ebooks last year. Note that these are true exports, not rights sales, so we’re counting books that were physically moved out of the country as well as ebooks sold in foreign ebookstores. The report shows that publishers are making a stronger effort to market overseas; they now offer over 90% of their titles to international customers.

But as interesting as the numbers above might be, have you considered what isn’t covered? I’d never considered the export situation before, but as I read the email I started wondering what data might be missed. I’m not criticizing anyone for accuracy; my curiosity was piqued by the possibility that could not report complete data because they didn’t have it.

Publishers can sell their paper books to overseas customers, distributors, and retailers, but so can US retailers. For example, Amazon sells books overseas, but I’m still not sure if that data gets back to publishers. (Does anyone know?) So those sales might not be included.

But the more important story (more interesting at least) is how publishers track ebook sales. While the reported figures include over 1500 retailers (print and digital)  the ebook export stat doesn’t include all the ebookstores. For example. while Apple and Google will break the data down by country, Kobo doesn’t. I was told by David Moynihan of Olympia Press that Kobo sends publishers a spreadsheet that doesn’t show sales by country.

What’s more, Amazon rather complicates the situation. According to David, they send reports for each of their local ebookstores, but the rest of the world buys from the Kindle Store at Data from that Kindle Store isn’t broken down by country, so we don’t really know how many ebooks they sell overseas.

Interesting, no? Now that I know what isn’t covered, it’s clear that the ebook exports are probably significantly higher than the stats above would have you believe.  That 300% plus increase would very likely be even more impressive if we could get all the data.

P.S. In case it’s not clear by now I am a stats junkie. Finding out where the data ends is always fun.

In a new report produced by the Association of American Publishers and released today, US publishers in the Trade sector (fiction and non-fiction for adults and children) have seen significant sales increases worldwide in both print and e-format English-language books in the past year.

According to publishers who contributed 2010 and 2011 data to the report, factors for the recent growth include internet access to the full range of English-language titles, particularly those previously unavailable in many markets; the rise of eBooks globally and new readers; interest in US editions; and publishers’ strategic expansion in international sales, marketing and distribution.

The full report is available for purchase.  Contact [email protected] for more information.

US publishers currently export, on average, 90% of their titles in print and/or e-formats and work with nearly 15,000 international retailers in 200 countries.  More than 750 million people outside the US can read English.

Highlights of the report, analysis and a chart with all referenced data follow (note:  if chart grid is not showing up for you below, let me know):

Total export sales

In 2011, US Trade publishers’ net sales revenue was $357.4 million* representing 71.9 million total units.  This was a 7.2% increase over 2010’s $333.3 million and 0.9% over 71.3 total units.

Print and e-formats

Total eBook net sales revenue for 2011 was $21.5 million, a gain of 332.6% over 2010; this represents 3.4 million eBook units sold in 2011, up 303.3 %.  As comparison, print formats (Hardcover, Paperback and Mass Market Paperback) increased 2.3% to $335.9 million in 2011.

Growth regions

The most rapidly-growing regions for US publishers include:

Continental Europe – 14.7% overall increase in revenue; 218.8% in eBooks, 9.5% in print

UK – 22.9% overall year-to-year increase in revenue; 1316.8% increase in eBooks, 10.4% in print

Latin America – 15.4% increase in revenue overall; 201.6% in eBooks and 9.7% in print

Africa – 21.9% total increase in revenue; that translated to 636.8% gain in eBooks and 17.1% in print

According to publishers, growth in print and e-format export sales has been complementary for several years and will continue to follow this pattern for the foreseeable future, with a considerable percentage of print format revenue coming from the international marketplace.  Historically, foreign distributors – particularly those in non-English language countries – offered only 5-10% of US publishers’ English-language titles, mainly bestsellers and in print formats.  Internet access, however, has brought the full slate of titles to consumers in these countries; this was followed by the international emergence of eBooks in 2009 and the most dramatic growth in that sector over the last 12 months.

Another reason for the growth comes from US Trade publishers actively expanding their global strategies.  Over the past few years, publishers have reached deeper into the international consumer base through marketing and publicity, especially digitally and with social media; sales; and distribution.  US publishers have established a strong presence across the world.

Finally, various factors were cited by publishers regarding the popularity of US titles.  Often, the draw is the original US edition itself.  Certain genres such as entertainment, US pop culture and American business topics have special appeal as well as children’s/young adult books in countries where English as a second language is important.

For media:  For more information or to arrange interviews with industry experts, please contact Andi Sporkin, [email protected]

Data for this report was extrapolated from BookStats 2011 figures and supplemental data was provided by publishers and their distribution clients, a total of 161 publishers.  Participating publishers included Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, MIT, Penguin, Perseus, Random House, Simon & Schuster and W.W. Norton.

*Canada is excluded from all figures cited in this highlights summary release since its sales reporting status (whether it is included in domestic or foreign revenue) differs based on publisher.  The full report, which has more comprehensive analysis and detailed data, includes Canada.


2011 2010 Percent change
Total export sales – $$ $357.4 million $333.3 million +7.2%
Total exp. sales – units 71.9M 71.3M +0.9%
Total eBook sales – $$ $21.5M $4.9M +332.6%
Total print sales – $$ $335.9M $328.3M +2.3%
Growth regions:
Continental Europe

Overall revenue

$83.2M $72.5M +14.7%

eBooks revenue

$5.8M $1.8M +218.8%

Print revenue

$77.4M $70.7M +9.5%

Overall revenue

$64.1M $52.2M +22.9%

eBooks revenue

$7.1M $499.9 thousand +1316.8%

Print revenue

$57.1M $51.7M +10.4%
Latin America

Overall revenue

$16.7M $14.4M +15.4%

eBooks revenue

$1.3M $427.9 thousand +201.6%

Print revenue

$15.4M $14.0M +9.7%

Overall revenue

$3.8M $3.1M +21.9%

eBooks revenue

$178.6 thousand $24.2 thousand +636.8%

Print revenue

$3.7M $3.1M +17.1%

Similar Articles


Kerry May 19, 2012 um 12:21 am

Not to mention the people who are making themselves look like US customers but aren’t, in order to get around geo restrictions.

I have now idea if that’s a significant number, but I’ve seen enough anecdotes to suggest it happens quite a bit.

Write a Comment