Declining Ebooks Sales: a New Masquerade?

It’s been a while since we read that ebook sales are down, especially in the US and in the Anglo-Saxon countries. But, a new article comes to change things. In reality, sales of ebooks are increasing.

Partial figures from the AAP and the UK Publishers’ Association

It all starts with the analysis of the figures provided by the AAP (Association of American Publishers) and the UK Publishers’ Association (same for the United Kingdom).

The numbers are not very good for eBook sales as the UK Publishers’ Association reports a 17% drop in ebook sales.

At the same time, ie in the first quarter of 2017, an increase in paper books of 8% is recorded.

This increase in sales of paper books is indisputable. Indeed, we can estimate that the figures have reliable because the major publishers are those who publish the most paper books.

However, digital numbers are increasingly challenged. Indeed, they do not take into account all independent publishers and – therefore – the entire economy of Amazon’s self-published book – to name a few.

Traditional and mainstream media tend to publish such numbers without having the knowledge to understand them well.

An analysis of potentially false results

A simplistic analysis is based on the following:

  1. sales of paper books increase
  2. e-book sales decline
  3. so readers are fed up with digital books and return to paper

This is undoubtedly a true analysis of a number of people. However, I do not observe this around me. I am always surprised by the number of readers who start reading ebooks (especially on tablet and smartphone, it must be said).

This schema of thought that seeks to show that digital books are abandoned has always left me unmoved (read my article here on this subject).

It does not seem to reflect the everyday observations of readers.


I think it makes remember two important dates for digital reading.

First, there is the introduction of the Kindle Reader by Amazon in 2007. Although not the first reader, it is the one that has been accepted by the general public.

Then, there is the year 2011. This year, forgotten since Amazon announced that they had sold more ebooks than paper books!

For, Amazon sells not only digital versions of paper books, but also books that come out only digitally (and do not necessarily have associated ISBN numbers).

These sales are virtually impossible to track down by different studies since Amazon does not communicate on sales volumes.

A book market carried by coloring

The most interesting is perhaps the analysis of the explosion of sales of paper books.

In recent years, a whole new type of book has appeared in bookstores: coloring books for adults.

Even if sales of this type of book tends to go down, this new market is not suitable for digital (impossible to offer a digital coloring book for Kindle). However, it has been very popular in the US: it has grown to 1 million copies sold to more than 12 million between 2014 and 2015.

These coloring books have brought the growth of the edition of paper books. In Australia alone, in the top 20 best-selling paper books in 2015, there were 8 coloring books …

The authors’ income: a more reliable source

So how do you measure the sales of paper and digital books? Maybe by analyzing authors’ income rather than sales figures.

The idea is to rely on what book creators earn to determine the success – or not – of a medium. This is what the Author Earnings site offers.

Their estimates are astonishing since they indicate that Amazon has sold about 260 million digital books published by independent (ie not counted in official statistics) during the year 2016. This represents sales of 850 million dollars!

Even more surprising: between 2015 and 2016, while publisher association figures announced a sharp drop in the number of ebooks sold, authors earned about 4% more digital sales.

Conclusion: the numbers lie to us

The conclusion is less obvious than it seems. Because, if overall, ebooks are selling more and more, it becomes difficult to correctly interpret the figures of publishers.

Because of the mix of genres and markets in the sales figures of paper books (we have seen the example of coloring), we can not really compare digital sales with traditional sales.

But one thing is certain: do not bury digital books too fast



Source: Author

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