Five Reasons the Worldwide Ebook Market Saw Huge Growth in 2013

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Probably the biggest takeaway from US media in 2013 was that ebook growth rates are levelling off, with reports anywhere from flat sales to more optimistic 30% to 40% growth rates. That’s still a lot of dollars, but significantly less growth than previous years.

Here in Europe though, the picture looks a little bit different.

One of the largest ebook distribution platforms in the world, over 90% of ePubDirect’s customers are based in the UK & Europe. They range from very large to quite small publishers – from tens of ebooks to thousands of ebooks. As such, we have a pretty good handle on how those markets and publishers are performing. (Disclosure: I am CEO of ePubDirect.)

Unlike publishers themselves or retailers, as a distributor we get to see all of our publisher’s sales performance in aggregate, offering a pretty wide and balanced view.

Ebook Performance in 2013
As an absolute average our publisher’s ebook sales were up 146% in 2013 compared to 2012. That includes fiction and non-fiction customers. The fiction figure is much higher. Some publishers experienced growth of well over 500%. That’s amazing growth in any industry.

Why have our publishers fared so well? It’s interesting to understand why and I think there are five key factors.

Learn more about what’s happening in the world of ebooks in the U.S. and abroad at Digital Book World 2014 where you can meet the first-ever class of Digital Book World Fellows: publishing executives from Europe, imported to New York to share their expertise with the DBW community. Register today!

1. A bigger world
There was a real opening up of new markets in 2013. This is evident in the fact our publishers sold into a third more countries in 2013 than 2012.

This translated into two interesting results — the percentage of U.S. & UK sales decreased proportionally overall and there was a surprising reduction in dependency on Amazon in 2013. Wider reach and new channels diluted both.

Territories with significant growth for our publishers? South America, Japan, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Belgium. (It seems the European mainland is starting to catch on to this ebook thing!)

2. Rights
Typically European publishers tend to hang on to their worldwide rights in their own language. Even in the UK many publishers have for the last number of year held back the eBook in rights sales and they are now reaping the benefits by taking advantage of a truly global ebook market.

3. Retailer reach
As Amazon, Apple, Kobo and others have expanded to new territories and opened up specialized stores for each country, European publishers are in prime position to take advantage due to their more open rights policy.
The fact that ePubDirect adds two-to-four new channels per month also helps. While many new retailers or business models offer incremental growth individually, collectively they can make a difference.

4. Currencies
We have always encouraged publishers to list as many currencies as possible. This took some time but those publishers that have specific pricing in varied currencies rather than the typical dollar, pound and euro perform significantly better in new and existing territories. We went from having to manage three currencies on average to managing 15-to-20 now, in some cases.

5. Pricing
Typically publishers have been relatively lax when it comes to pricing for foreign territories. Often it’s merely a direct conversion of the main territory price. That is, an ebook that costs $10.00 would be converted into the equivalent amount in euros. While many Publishers have never had to deal with multiple pricing, it’s crucial that they acknowledge the fact that a price that works in one territory doesn’t necessarily translate in another.

For example;

Top 1,000 Amazon Title ASP OCT 13



Bus & Economics : General (BUS000000)



History: General (HIS000000)



Religion: General (REL000000)









In this instance,business titles hold pretty much the same value in both markets. However, religious and history titles hold less than half the value.

Is this something you factor into your pricing strategy? Many of our customers do. It’s also something I plan on writing more about in the near future.

I’d be interested to hear from both European and U.S. publishers on the points above – are you seeing the same trends? Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below.



11 thoughts on “Five Reasons the Worldwide Ebook Market Saw Huge Growth in 2013

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  8. Lorraine Pestell

    Thanks for this interesting report on the “worldwide” eBook market. It appears that the southern hemisphere is not on your horizon at all… I realise that Australia and New Zealand are a long way off and our populations are small, but there are a large number of Antipodean authors who are struggling to be heard in this apparently “worldwide” market.

    As an example, with finally “opening its doors” at the end of 2013, we Aussie and NZ authors have been sent packing from the US regional store, which had been our default home until now. Fortunately Amazon saw fit to transfer our customer reviews with our books to the Australian website, but any new reviews received in our local market will no longer be seen on the US website.

    I assume this works the same for any regional “store”, which significantly disadvantages new authors who are trying to break into the larger markets, such as the US and the UK. I have attempted to make contact with someone at Amazon to find out if they intend to address this inequity, but until now have received no response.

    If DBW has any influence in this regard, I and my fellow down-under authors would be eternally grateful. Many thanks in advance!

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