New Benchmark for eBook Sales, and New Questions

iBooksBy Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World

“Book sales tracked by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) for the month of March increased by 16.6 percent at $458.2 million and were up by 8.0 percent for the year…

E-book sales jumped up 184.8 percent for the month ($28.5 million), reflecting an increase of 251.9 percent for the year.”

AAP Reports March Gains in Publishing Sales

The Association of American Publishers has closed the book on the first quarter of 2010, with both overall book sales and eBook sales showing year-over-year increases of +8% and +251.9%, respectively.

  • Overall Trade Book Sales, Q1 2010: $1.76 Billion
  • Adult Paperback Sales, Q1 2010: $332.7 Million
  • Adult Hardcover Sales, Q1 2010: $228.1 Million
  • Adult Mass Market Sales, Q1 2010: $159.4 Million
  • Overall eBook Sales, Q1 2010: $89.3 Million
  • Audiobooks Sales, Q1 2010: $31.6 Million

eBook sales “soared to $31.9 million” in January — presumably spurred by Amazon’s claims of “record-breaking” Kindle sales in December, and “more Kindle books than physical books” being purchased on Christmas Day — but they declined slightly in February and March, with estimated sales of $28.9 million and $28.5 million.

By comparison, Adult Paperback sales ($103.2m, $106.3m, $123.2m) had monthly increases and are up +23.5% over last year, and Adult Mass Market sales ($56m, $49.8m, $53.6m) saw monthly fluctuations and are down -6.6% vs. last year.

While the usual focus has been on eBook sales’ exponential (and unsustainable) year-over-year growth, the second quarter of 2010 will offer a new benchmark to watch as the effects of Apple’s claim of 1.5 million eBook downloads via iBooks will finally move beyond speculation and spin and into [still somewhat speculative] measurable data.

A few questions that will hopefully be answered this time next month include:

  1. How much of the decline in February and March was attributable to Macmillan’s (and others) eBooks being removed from Amazon during their dustup at the end of January over eBook pricing and the move to the “agency model”?
  2. Will April sales spike upwards thanks to iBooks and/or the iPad’s relatively open platform that allows Amazon, Kobo and others to play along?
  3. Will the Nook have any impact at all, and if so, will anyone acknowledge it?

Of course, the $100,000 Question is will any publishers come forward with hard data on their eBook sales to confirm any of the answers that are offered to the above questions?

5 thoughts on “New Benchmark for eBook Sales, and New Questions

    1. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Post author

      I think it has to do with what they’re including in the first number referred to as “Book sales tracked by the Association of American Publishers;” adding up the numbers from all of last year, it seems to exclude professional and educational book sales while the $23.9B is all-in.

      Apples-to-apples, Q1 2010 is slightly ahead of Q1 2009 at $1.76B vs. $1.74B, with the following three quarters of ’09 coming in at $2.075B, $4.35B and $3.034B. Summertime and December are the biggest months by far, while the beginning of the year is quieter overall.

      I’m going to add “Trade” to that line to make the distinction and will try to get further clarification on it.

      Thanks for noting the oddity!

      Reply
  1. Scott Nicholson

    I assume this doesn’t count indie books–the vast majority of which are ebooks. Even if the individual sales aren’t huge per author, cumulatively it has to be significant enough to note. I don’t know where you’d ever get that information, though.

    Scott Nicholson

    Reply
  2. Gareth Cuddy

    The 100,000 dolar question is an interesting one. I think transparancy has to become an integral part of publishers mindsets in the coming years for a number of reasons;
    1. In an era of easy self-publication where publishers are no longer the gatekeepers, but now the facilitators, they will find that they may need to pitch to the authors, not the other way round! Sales figures etc wil be needed to prove their case!
    2.They will also need to become more accountable to their authors in terms of real-time reporting and sales figures.
    3. Having less to spend on marketing is a very real issue even right now and enlisting the help of your authors to promote themselves and your titles online will mean closer collaboration and full disclosure.
    4. Last but not least, Consumers are becoming more and more savvy as well as paradoxically remaining susceptible to market trends. Justifying the cost of your product to consumers who expect “free” will probably involve removing the shroud of mystery that surrounds publishing. Creating real, meaningful communities around your products online will involve a little exposure and honesty to gain credibility.

    The world of publishing is changing and hopefully Publishers will catch up. Soon.

    Reply
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