Ebook Growth Slows to Single Digits in U.S. in 2013

chartSay goodbye to the go-go years of fast-paced ebook growth — at least for now. Ebook growth, once in the triple and double digits, with no signs of abating, has slowed to a crawl in 2013.

According to the latest numbers from the Association of American Publishers, adult trade ebooks brought in $1.3 billion in revenue in 2013, up 3.8% from $1.25 billion in 2012. Ebooks now account for 27% of all adult trade sales, up from 23% in 2012.

Meanwhile, children’s ebooks fell considerably versus 2012, likely due to unfavorable comparisons because of the success that year of the Hunger Games series. Children’s ebooks generated $170.5 million in sales, down 26.7% from $232.5 million in 2012. Still, chilren’s ebook sales are up considerably from 2011, when they were about $105 million. Ebooks accounted for 11% of children’s book sales, down from 14% last year when Hunger Games ebooks were flying off the virtual shelves.

Sales of religious ebooks, while still small, increased nearly 10% to $63.6 million and now account for 11% of all religious book sales. That’s up from 10% last year.

In 2012, ebook revenue growth was 41% across the trade. After years of accelerating growth, it hi an inflection point, moving to slower growth. In 2013, growth slowed even further.

In the UK, running up to next week’s London Book Fair, there has been bluster from prominent bookseller Tim Waterstone, founder of the Waterstone’s bookstore chain, that the ebook revolution is petering out and print books will take back some lost ground. In 2013, growth slowed but didn’t stop and ebooks now account for a larger percentage of overall publisher revenues than they ever have.


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6 thoughts on “Ebook Growth Slows to Single Digits in U.S. in 2013

  1. Robert Gottlieb

    All the more reason for authors to be vested in as many revenue streams as possible.

    Those revenue streams stem from formats and rights. This coming week five agents from Trident will be attending the London Book Fair where agents and publishers come together from around the world to sell and buy rights to author’s works. As I have said in the past even though Trident is bullish in the eBook space authors should not rely on one publishing ecosystem to live within.

    There is a parallel between eBook growth and eBook devices. While there has been a slowdown in eReader devices coming on to the market it appears more consumers are turning to Tablets as multi-functional eReading devices. The more mature the device market is the slower the over all growth in eBooks over all will take place.

    The other central component in the eBook space is growing the marketing capability of publishers and authors in order to achieve greater growth in eBooks which will also positively impact the other formats authors are publishing within.

    Robert Gottlieb
    Trident Media Group, LLC
    Like us on Face Book and follow us on Twitter for more publishing information

  2. Jack McKeown

    As some folks will remember, we predicted this in our first Verso consumer survey presented at Digital Book World 2010 and in repeated surveys thereafter –E book sales would plateau at 25-30% of the trade market. http://www.versoadvertising.com/DBWsurvey2012/
    The reasons were threefold:

    1. 50-50% of adult bookbuyers were thorougly resistant to reading books on screens of any type. This percentage remained relatively constant, and even intensified, survey after survey, despite the rapid penetration of e-readers into the market 2010-2013. This resistance was more pronounced among \avid\ readers, those who consumed more than 10 books per year.

    2. Among consumers owing e-reader devices who bought e-books, the majority attested to continuing to buy/read an equal number of print books on average. Again, this split-market effect held up, survey after survey.

    3. Only a very small percentage of readers had moved to exclusively reading on screen (under 5%)

    4. The conversion to tablet ownership had a drag effect on e-book sales as the multifunctionality of these devices added a level of distraction (email, music and video streaming, online games, etc.) that was not conducive to long-form narrative reading.

    If you did the alegbra, this yieled a predicted range for ebook sales in the 25-30% range. Very few of the predictive models that we saw during this period really took into account consumer preferences, particulary the wall of screen-resistant readers and the split-reading effect among e-reader owners.

    What could change the equation? We think it would take an e-reader that captured the tactile pleasure and stereographic three-dimensionality (i.e., the codex) of the print experience. Such a device, if technically and economically feasible, would be the best way to move the dot among the majority of book readers.

  3. Marc Cabot

    Curious: How can this be so confidently asserted when nobody but Amazon knows how many books Amazon sells and nobody but nobody knows how many books independent publishers are selling? It’s not that the data is wrong: it simply doesn’t exist. Amazon doesn’t report sales numbers. The APA wouldn’t count indie sales even if it could – which it can’t. (Because, again, nobody can.)

    As traditionally published books continue to be priced significantly higher than independently published books and the economics of the market provide indie books a premium opportunity to reach and keep hardcore readers – the three to ten percent who purchase more than *half* of all books – the market share, in both volume and revenue, which goes to indie books has continued to increase dramatically. More authors are making more money selling more books than ever before in human history. Sales of paper books are flat. That money is going into ebooks, whether or not the APA or any other entity can track it.

    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      These numbers are gathered among nearly 1,300 publishers and several large distributors of ebooks for publishers. It only represents a slice of the trade publishing industry. It should be said — should have been said, perhaps — that this is not the whole trade publishing industry and, particularly, not representative of self-published ebooks.

      Now, that said, it does represent a significant slice of the industry and is comparable to last year’s numbers and so does offer us a good view of what’s happening with books in the U.S.

      Repeat: It is NOT a complete view. But it’s a useful view nonetheless of what is happening in a large slice of the publishing industry. .



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