Does Ebook Growth Mask Market Share Declines?
By Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World
eBook sales statistics for August 2010 have been released from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) who collects these statistics in conjunction with the IDPF. Trade eBook sales were $39,000,000 for August, a 172.4% increase over August 2009 ($14,300,000). Calendar Year to Date sales show growth of + 193%.
Myriad caveats aside, the latest AAP/IDPF ebook sales data for August 2010 shows a slight leveling off from July’s record high of $40.8 million to $39 million, making it the second highest month of tracked sales ever.
While few would argue anymore that ebooks are here to stay, Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst James McQuivey raised a more intriguing question while previewing an upcoming report at yesterday’s Digital Book World Executive Summit in New York City:
“Agency model publishers have to ask themselves: which red line best fits my eBook sales growth curve? Both look good at first blush, but one suggests long term losses in share.”
The red lines he was referring to were hypothetical views of ebook sales compared to ereader adoption, with one tracking ahead, the other behind. While both showed impressive growth, the one that lagged ereader adoption suggested a publisher might be enjoying increased sales while simultaneously losing overall market share to its competitors, many of whom are not reflected in the AAP/IDPF sales data.
According to a report released earlier this week by Cowen and Co., “not only are sales of the Kindle device expected to grow 140% this year to nearly 5 million units from 2009, but digital book sales via the Kindle store are on track to grow 195% to $701 million in 2010.”
Cowen estimates Amazon currently having 76% of the ebook market, which would put the overall market at approximately $922 million, while the AAP/IDPF sales data is only tracking sales of $259.5 million year-to-date. Ebook sales of the twelve publishers they track would have to average $132.5 million/month through the end of the year to match Cowen’s projections, a highly unlikely occurrence.
More likely is that gap is being filled by the many small publishers and traditional and self-published authors who are selling ebooks via Amazon and whose sales aren’t tracked by the AAP/IDPF.
Of course, lacking anything resembling reliable, comprehensive sales data for ebooks, this is the fuzziest of fuzzy math, but there’s an undeniable gap there that needs to be defined, and within that gap lies the answer to McQuivey’s critical question.
“Does ebook growth mask market share declines?”
And if it does, how would you know?
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is the Director of Programming & Business Development for Digital Book World, and a published poet, writer, and active blogger since 2003. An old and new media pragmatist, social media realist, and marketing strategist, he views publishing as a community service, and is optimistic about its future.