Foreign E-Book Sales Increase 333% For U.S. Publishers in 2011

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By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

Foreign e-book sales for U.S. publishers turned a corner in 2011, according to a new report.

Sales of e-books by U.S. publishers to readers in other countries increased to $21.5 million in 2011 from $4.9 million in 2010, a 333% increase, according to a report released today from the Association of American Publishers. At the same time, print sales by U.S. publishers for foreign readers increased by 2.3% to $335.9 million. While growing significantly faster than print, e-book sales only accounted for 6% of overall sales.

“We’re all very excited about international e-book growth,” said Seth Russo, vice president, director of international sales at Simon & Schuster. “There are far more English speakers around than have access to print books.”

According to the report, U.S. publishers work with “nearly 15,000 international retailers in 200 countries” and export roughly 90% of their titles to the 750 million people outside the U.S. who can read English.

According to Russo, this profusion of retailers along with the expansion of leading U.S. e-booksellers into international markets has helped drive sales growth.

“We’ve had new channels and new business partners open up over the last year,” he said. “We’re working with Amazon, Kobo and Apple” as well as local and regional players like “OLF in Switzerland and Txtr in Berlin. The international market isn’t necessarily going to be dominated by multi-nationals. Other, smaller regional players will be able to carve out their own niche in the e-book market.”

Still, the retailers that helped drive strong e-book sales growth internationally are largely the same ones who do most of the business in the U.S. — Amazon and Apple. Amazon launched its store in Germany last summer and recently launched stores in other large markets across Europe. Barnes & Noble recently opened Nook offices in the UK and Berlin and has signaled its intention to expand internationally. Kobo, according to Russo, is still a small player internationally but has a larger market share outside of the U.S. than within it.

According to Russo, the international market has yet to sort itself out and “the established players are still emerging.”

E-book sales in the U.S. continue to grow, but at a slower pace, according to the most recent numbers from the AAP. E-book revenue in February in the U.S. was $122.5 million, a 25.9% increase over February 2011. While on a slower growth curve, U.S. e-book sales are set to hit $1.5 billion in 2012.

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

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2 thoughts on “Foreign E-Book Sales Increase 333% For U.S. Publishers in 2011

  1. Well… they would sell even more ebooks to overseas customers like me if they would get rid of those stupid region restrictions!

  2. I read that e-book publishers want to break the $9.99 price point. Frankly I won’t pay more than that for an e-book. I mean where’s the value in an e-book? You can’t share it, donate it, leave it on a park bench. Publishers want big profit for something that costs them very little. Sooooo…. my question is – what price are they charging abroad?

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