E-books are still a tiny part of the market

Despite the panic among publishers about e-book prices, according to an article in today’s NY Times business section, e-books are still a very small segment of sales:

Last year, less than two percent of all books sold were e-books, according to Bowker, which tracks the industry. By contrast, trade paperbacks and hardcovers made up approximately 35 percent each of sales, Bowker says. Mass market paperbacks came in at 21 percent.

Here are the numbers:
35% Trade paperbacks
35% Hardcover
21% Mass market paperback
2% Audio
2% E-book
5% Other

Also interesting is where books are being sold.

27% Large chains
20% E-commerce
11% Book club
8% Mass merchandisers
5% Independents
29% Other

What startles me is how quickly E-commerce is starting to dominate the picture — and how the independents are suffering as a result. The last time I checked, my own sales through Amazon.com were still under 10% of my total. I wonder what that percentage is now.

6 replies
  1. techiebabe
    techiebabe says:

    A friend reminds me that you can’t read an e-book in the bath.

    Print will always be wanted to some extent (even if it’s not enough to keep libraries in business).

    But you’re right about buying my books online; the reasons I buy through Amazon are
    1) No independent bookseller in walking distance of my house (nor has there been for about a decade, and then it was only a cafe which sold a few books on the side)
    2) By the time I order a book at WHSmith or similar, I could have ordered it online – and I won’t need to go to the bookstore to collect it
    3) Price difference – bookstores tend to charge full price, Amazon rarely does.

    Because of Amazon, I read a LOT more than I used to – because it’s fun to make a wish list, because I can read other people’s reviews and recommendations, but mainly because it’s so quick, cheap and easy to get hold of books.

    The alternative is buying books at my local supermarket, where I can only choose from the 100 or so titles they want to offer. Admittedly this is where I first came across your novels, but I don’t think it’s a great concept to support – there must be so many authors who are missing an audience because Tesco don’t stock them. Amazon offer an amazing range, and I’m happy to support them in that.

  2. Kyle K.
    Kyle K. says:

    After all of the costs to print/ship/sell a physical book, are the publishers really losing that much money to ebooks? Especially if they’re allowed to sell them for $12-$15 each? Unless the sellers are taking huge cuts on the sales, but that would be a negotiation point between the publisher and the ebook seller.

    Stephen King once said he doesn’t care how someone reads one of his books, just that they are. If people want to read ebooks, let them! There are still plenty who are willing to buy physical books.

  3. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    I must admit I do buy a lot of books online,like techibabe I don’t have easy access to independant bookstores..its cheaper and convenient too!
    However, if I get the chance I love browsing in bookshops..just love the atmosphere..and the sight of all those shelves full of books that can transport you to what ever place you fancy…heaven!

  4. Tess
    Tess says:

    Kyle,
    I don’t think publishers are yet losing money to e-books (in fact, they’re doing quite well with e-books) but they’re understandably concerned about the future, when everyone has an e-reader and piracy becomes more prevalent.

    As far as the pricing of e-books, the concern was that Amazon was selling e-books for $9.999 (and taking a loss on those sales), to boost the sale of their Kindles. At that price, Amazon was undercutting hardcover sales, thereby hurting the already fragile state of publishing houses.

  5. april
    april says:

    I’m not surprised. I just recently bought a nook and was very hesitant about it, but it just worked out that I had an opportunity to get one at no cost to me. I can’t believe how quickly I’ve adapted to ereading. I also take mine in the bath. I always have both hands on it. It makes me nervous, but I also have a toddler so I’m more worried, she’ll take hold of it. It looks like B&N has a difference price structure than Amazon. Many of their books aren’t necessarily that inexpensive buying electronic vs. paper book. If a book becomes a bestseller, there are heavy discounts though.

    I’m more likely to buy a hardcover than trade size. I think they’re a gigantic waste of money. With coupons and whatnot these days, I can get a hardcover way below retail price, but trade paperbacks are rarely less than face value. At that point, I’d rather the hardcover or pay mass market prices.

    I think it’ll be a fascinating market to be watching in the next 5 years. I think basing things on the consumer was a poor plan in the long run and I think publishers are catching up to the market which is a bad position for everyone involved. It’ll regulate eventually, I have no doubt. I’m just sure there will be some short term damage first.

  6. RichZ
    RichZ says:

    FWIW, I find I’m buying more books now (as ebooks) than I would have if I had to stay with paper books. I use the Kindle app on my iPhone. I typically only get to my local B&N about once a week, but when buying ebooks I can go shopping at my desk and have the book delivered to my phone in seconds. The instant gratification implication should not to be underrated.

    I also love the thought that I carry 25 books on my phone, in my shirt pocket. I get itchy when I don’t have reading material handy.

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