E-Book Sales Have Tripled in the Last Year!

Stack of books graph shows ebook sales

Today the Association of American Publishers finally released their estimated sales statistics for February. It’s conclusion? E-book sales have more than tripled from where they were just one year ago!

I’ve updated this post because originally I hadn’t realized just how much the sales had increased. “According to AAP’s monthly sales estimates, e-book sales jumped 202.3% at the 16 publishers that reported results, hitting $90.3 million,” Publisher’s Weekly reported this morning – and a 200% increase means the sales are triple where they were from the year before. Again, these are the official statistics from the official trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry, which reported that e-book sales “have enjoyed triple-digit percentage growth, 202.3%, vs February 2010.” And they also acknowledged today that people really love to read e-books.

“The public is embracing the breadth and variety of reading choices available to them,” announced the association’s president, adding that while the reading public maintains an interest in printed books, they’ve “made e-books permanent additions to their lifestyle.”

It’s nice to see that book publishers are aware of the changes rocking their industry, and that they’re approaching it with a sense of history. The association’s president noted today that “publishers are constantly redefining the timeless concept of ‘books,'” and identifying new audiences they can serve in new emerging technologies. “Publishers have always strategically expanded into all the markets and formats where readers want to find books,” he added enthusiastically, “whether it was Trade Paperback, Mass Market or now digital.”

But the statistics tell an unusually compelling story. Publishers are selling more e-books than they are books in any other format, according to a larger survey of over 84 different publishing houses. And in fact, nearly every kind of printed book has shown a decline in sales from the sales they reported just last year. For example, in February hardcover sales dropped a massive 43% from the year before, and they’re now earning the publishing houses just $46.2 million.

And mass-market paperbacks didn’t fare much better, dropping 41.5% in February (down to just $29.3 million) from their sales figures a year ago. In fact, combining every category of printed book, you’d still see a drop of 24.8% in their February sales this year. There was only one kind of printed book which showed any increase in sales this year: religious books, which sold 5.5% more in February than they did in February of 2010 (earning $48.5 million). But no matter how you approach these figures, e-books still come out as extremely popular.

So what’s their explanation? E-books apparently got a big boost from the people who received a Kindle (or another digital reader) as a gift this Christmas. There’s not only more reading devices to choose from, but now there’s also more digital titles available, their report noted today. And people may even be reading more once they purchase a digital reader, the report seems to suggest. “Additionally, trade publishing houses cite e-books as generating fresh consumer interest in — and new revenue streams for — ‘backlist’ titles, books that have been in print for at least a year. Many publishers report that e-Book readers who enjoy a newly-released book will frequently buy an author’s full backlist.”

This may be the year that everything changes — when digital texts really start to replace the printed book as we know it.

7 thoughts to “E-Book Sales Have Tripled in the Last Year!”

  1. It is unfortunate that everything is going electronic now. I’m presently working on my masters, with plans to go onward for my doctorate, and electronic books have been such an annoyance for research purposes.

    The main issue? I don’t have 8 or 10 different e-readers where I can have several book open at once. When doing research, your constantly referencing different books, journals, articles, and it is just awkward using an e-reader. Sometimes highlighters and sticky notes work best when you are continually going back to reference material. Even with accessibility through a laptop/computer, you run into the same sort of issues. I’m already looking at a computer screen for a tiring number of hours a day, doing more reading off an electronic display? Not an experience I’m looking for.

    The other thing that concerns me, many of the e-books are not purchased, they are licensed. This is particularly true for text books. Any of my e-texts are only useable for 5 years before they go “poof” and you are forced to buy a new license – quite possibly the new edition may or may not have the same material your looking for. In this aspect, this is just a forced money grab by the publishers. This argument has been made for a long while with regards to textbooks. With e-text they can force both professors and students to use the latest edition (even if it is not the greatest) – it solidifies their repeat revenue stream.

    I’m for one that hopes that this trend burns it self out. Perhaps I’m nostalgic and I just prefer the feel of a printed book – something tangible, something that I can put in my personal library without the worries of licenses expiring, without the worries of information being edited or deleted with new editions, or the worries of readers becoming obsolete and superseded by newer readers. Think when the last time you saw a computer with a floppy drive – think how much data is this limbo area with the difficulty to read/recover. E-books could easily go the same way.

    And before one accuses me of being an old fuddy-duddy technology hater that is refusing to get with the times, I love technology and electronics. I have a professional 15 year background in information technology, and have been using computers since 1977. I absolutely love technology when it is used appropriately. I detest technology when it is used for the sake of technology. One thing I have learned over the years, electronic does not always equal better.

    Again, I hope this trend loses it steam, but unfortunately I don’t see it happening.

  2. @Stephen: The revisions is one thing that is often overlooked. When one loses access to those past version, one can not understand the context of the evolution of a topic. When things are digital, with such licensing terms and DRM, what is included is at the whim of the publisher.

    Even those who say for works of fiction, this is not likely to be as big as a deal. Think about how some of the classic fiction has been changes as of late (think: Huckelberry Finn has been reworded to be “less offensive”). While that may be nice and politically correct in this age of uber-political correctness, but one needs to ask what we lose as a results of it?

    The context of the book, the era of the time, and the *HISTORY* of how things were. So essentially you have history being “re-written” to make ones-self feel better. Rather than learn from the past, we have the past sanitized so there was never a problem. Great, let’s do that for the Holocaust of WWII, surely that must be offensive to someone, let’s sanitize it so it’s not as bad. Perhaps a wee bit extreme in the example, but illustrates the danger.

    This is just one of the many consequences that this new and great format can creates. I won’t get started on the life cycle of the device, the changes that technology will go through, the danger of corruption or inaccessibility issues. Think to the last time your or someone elses cell phone service went down and how crazy you or they got? Hard to believe less than 15 years ago, cell phones were not that common and 20 years ago, we functioned quite well without them.

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