Online Retail Now Accounts for Nearly Half All U.S. Book Sales

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Amazon leads the pack in online book retail.

Amazon leads the pack in online book retail.

Online book retail, including ebooks, accounted for 44% of all spending by consumers on books in the U.S. in 2012, according to a new report from Bowker.

This is up from 39% in 2011, which was the first year when online retail eclipsed physical retail as the No. 1 place U.S. consumers buy books.

The new data also revealed that Amazon increased its lead over other outlets in online book retail in 2012, with ebook sales from Barnes & Noble, the second-leading online outlet, declining as a proportion of overall sales even as ebooks continue to gain popularity nationwide. This bit of data dovetails with marketplace chatter about Barnes & Noble’s declining position among ebook buyers and as a source of revenue for some publishers.

Ebook spending grew in 2012 to an 11% share of the total versus 7% in 2011. While about a quarter of Americans say they read ebooks and many “power buyers” buy huge volumes of them, ebooks typically cost much less than print books, which explains the discrepancy between the number of Americans who read ebooks and the amount spent on them.

To be sure, many large publishers are reporting that 20% to 30% of their overall revenue comes from ebooks. Perhaps the discrepancy in consumer-reported spending and publisher earnings reports can be explained by the growth in self-published ebooks, which are typically less expensive, and low ebook penetration into certain segments of publishing, like cookbooks and other illustrated titles.

Read more below.

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[Press Release]

Online Retailers Gained, While Brick-and-Mortar Lost In Wake of Borders Exit

Bowker study says bookstore chains held less than 20 percent share in 2012

In the year following the exit of Borders from the book retail scene, online retailers — led by Amazon — earned 44 percent of Americans’ book dollars, up from 39 percent in 2011. The insights into where book buyers are spending come from the 2013 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Review, the publishing industry’s only complete consumer-based report integrating channel, motivation and category analysis of U.S. book buyers. The Review, an information staple published this month by Bowker® Market Research and industry trade magazine Publishers Weekly, notes that while book retailer Barnes & Noble (including BN.com) remained the second largest bookselling outlet, it depended more on sales of print books in 2012 than it did in 2011, with consumer ebook spending there declining from six percent in 2011 to four percent.

“The Review reveals the larger industry impact of the growth of ebooks,” said Jo Henry, director of Bowker Market Research, a service of ProQuest affiliate Bowker. “This is more than simply a format change. Ebooks are driving powerful behavioral changes among book buyers. The Review captures those trends, providing greater ability to predict and prepare in a very dynamic landscape.”

The Annual Review explores who is buying books, what they’re buying, along with where and why they’re buying them and the industry changes those demographics and behaviors are driving. Information is culled from the Bowker Market Research consumer panel of almost 70,000 Americans who bought books of any format and from any source in 2012 and reveals another pivotal year in the evolution of the book industry.

Among the Review’s highlights:

· Women increased their lead over men in book buying, accounting for 58 percent of overall book spending in 2012, up from 55 percent in 2011. However, men are bigger hardcover buyers – the only area where their buying outpaces women’s.

· The slowly improving economy has improved the climate for purchasing books. By the close of 2012, 53 percent of consumers said the economy was having no effect on their book buying habits, up from 51 percent at the end of 2011.

· Ebooks continue their steady upward trend, with an 11 percent share of spending in 2012, compared to seven percent in 2011.

· The growth of ebooks varies widely among the different publishing categories with their deepest penetration focused in fiction, particularly in the mystery/detective, romance, and science fiction categories, where ebooks accounted for more than 20 percent of 2012 spending.

Despite the growth of ebooks, traditional print book output grew three percent in 2012, from 292,037 titles in 2011 to 301,642 in 2012. The Review contains Bowker’s popular breakdown of print production by genre and for “Unclassified” works comprising mostly reprints and Print-on-Demand, public domain works marketed almost exclusively on the web. This category bounced back with 11 percent growth after a steep 65 percent decline between 2010 (3.8 million titles) and 2011 (1.3 million titles). In 2012, the Reprint/POD sector accounted for the largest ISBN output – more than 1.4 million titles — and as a result, drove an overall increase in print book output of ten percent.

“The book industry continued to change in some unexpected ways in 2012,” said Jim Milliot, Publishers Weekly Editorial Director and editor of the Annual Review. “The information in the annual review is just what is needed to help all industry members adjust to the new publishing reality.”

The 2013 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Review is available now by visiting www.bookconsumer.com. Through August, the report can be purchased for $799 for a single-use PDF or print copy. After August the price rises to $999. Members of the news media can purchase at a 30 percent discount by contacting MarketResearch@bowker.com. Print copies are being manufactured on demand by Ingram Content Group’s Lightning Source, the global leader in print on demand book manufacturing and distribution.

About Bowker® (www.bowker.com)

Bowker is the world’s leading provider of bibliographic information and management solutions designed to help publishers, booksellers, and libraries better serve their customers. Creators of products and services that make books easier for people to discover, evaluate, order, and experience, the company also generates research and resources for publishers, helping them understand and meet the interests of readers worldwide. Bowker, a ProQuest affiliate, is the official ISBN Agency for the United States and its territories. The company is headquartered in New Providence, New Jersey, with additional operations in England and Australia.

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4 thoughts on “Online Retail Now Accounts for Nearly Half All U.S. Book Sales

  1. While 44% is impressive, what’s more interesting is that of that Amazon’s marketshare of online book sales (print and e-book) is estimated to be less than 50% overall. That’s remarkable given they dominate other online retailers with e-book marketshare and lowest pricing and delivery speed on print.

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