Home » Amazon, Bookstores » E-books Gained, Online Retailers Slipped in 2014

E-books Gained, Online Retailers Slipped in 2014

30 March 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

E-books’ market share of new-book sales increased slightly in 2014 over 2013, while the share of all book sales made through online retailers and bookstore chains dipped in the same period. Those were two of the major trends found by the most recent survey of consumer book-buying behavior conducted by Nielsen Books & Consumers.

E-books accounted for 15% of the spending on all new books (backlist and frontlist titles) last year, up from 12% in 2013. The format’s share of units rose at a slightly slower rate, rising by one percentage point in the year, to 21%, an indication that though e-books remain lower priced than print titles, prices have increased. Print accounted for 70% of new-book spending in 2014, a drop of seven percentage points from 2013.

. . . .

The online retail channel, which includes Amazon, accounted for 35% of all new book sales, both print and digital, in 2014, down from 38% in 2013. Online retailers had a larger share of units, accounting for 39% of units sold, reflecting the impact of the sale of lower-priced e-books. The decline in online retailers’ share of spending despite growth in the e-book market suggests that e-tailers’ share of print book sales may have declined last year.

Bookstore chains’ share of spending fell from 25% in 2013 to 22% in 2014, and its share of units last year was 21%.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Amazon, Bookstores

32 Comments to “E-books Gained, Online Retailers Slipped in 2014”

  1. I got as far as “Nielsen Books & Consumers” before it lost all credibility.

    Someone tell me how it ends.

  2. ‘Considering the source’ as they say, and considering these sources do their own cherry-picking of the numbers, ebooks must have done a heck of a lot better than they are willing to admit to. Just another of those times I’d love to see what Amazon’s true breakdown of the numbers look like … 😉


    Boucher’s Observation: He who blows his own horn always plays the music several octaves higher than originally written.

  3. I guess it all depend son how you look at it. ‘Ebook sales of new books increased slightly.’ says the article. they went from 12 to 15%. So I guess a 25% increase is slight.

    Let’s see if I have this correctly.

    “Hi Mr Jones. I was going to build a fence along my back yard. It will intrude on you property SLIGHTLY. It will only take up about 25% of your yard.”

    “Hi Mrs. Smith, I wanted to talk to you about a SLIGHT raise. How do you feel about 25%?”

    “My 401k balance increased SLIGHTLY last year. It only went up 25%.”

    “The damage to my house was SLIGHT. Only 25% of it collapsed.”

    And to think that slight 25% is only what they’ll admit to.

    • And that slight increase only includes the part they count.

    • I think it’s the return of Whale Math.

      Your examples cracked me up, Ed. A guy asked me to marry him, but would accept only 25% of the vows.

      • “I am the genie of the lamp. Be warned that anything you wish for your worst enemy will get four times as much.”

        “Okay, give me ten million in the bank, a hundred and twenty-five pound blonde bombshell — and a quarter of a marriage license …” 😛

        • That reminds me of the joke about the Polish guy who found an old brass lamp. When he rubbed it, a genie came out and told him he had three wishes.

          “All right,” he said. “I want the Mongols to invade Poland.”

          The genie looked at him kind of funny, but shrugged and snapped his fingers. Sure enough, the Mongol hordes swept across the eastern border and destroyed everything in their wake. When they were finished, the genie asked the Polish guy what he wanted for his second wish.

          “I want the Mongols to invade Poland again.”

          The genie frowned but did as he was commanded. The Mongol hordes trampled all the farmland and burned every village and hamlet to the ground. No one could resist them.

          “What do you want for your third wish?” the genie asked.

          The Polish guy smiled. “I want the Mongols to invade Poland again.”

          “Are you sure?” the genie asked, clearly baffled. “This is your third and final wish. You won’t get any others.”

          “I know. Bring on the Mongols!”

          The genie sighed and did as the Polish guy commanded him. The Mongols swept up from the east and laid waste to everything. They raped, pillaged, massacred, and burned, only occasionally in that order. When they left, the few survivors were left reeling.

          “All right,” said the genie when it was all over. “What’s going on? Why did you use all of your wishes to get the Mongols to destroy your own country? They invaded you three times!”

          “Yes,” said the Polish guy. “But they went through Russia six times!”

      • The Whale always comes up again for air.

    • And I missed the ‘key word’ the first time around …

      “of the [spending] on all new books”

      So ten $2.99 ebooks vs just one 29.99 hardback — of which the ebook writer takes home more than the hardback writer for each ebook sold.

      Maybe we should call this ‘apple to watermelon’ math.

      We sold more pounds of watermelon than they did of apples!

  4. From the article:

    “The book club/book fair channel picked up share in 2014, accounting for 10% of spending, up from 5% in 2015;”

    The bot that spews out these random statistics clearly needs to be repaired.

  5. Is this more of the worthless data that doesn’t include books published without ISBNs (i.e. a huge part of the indie market)?

  6. The decline in online retailers’ share of spending despite growth in the e-book market suggests that e-tailers’ share of print book sales may have declined last year.

    May have declined? How is that they know all these other things about the market, but don’t know that? The short answer is that they don’t explain the potential magnitude of the errors in their various estimates. Consumer survey data is very tricky to interpret correctly.

    • Consumer survey data is very tricky to interpret correctly.

      And all-but impossible to interpret accurately!

    • It is a constant source of amazement to me that the big publishers have been able to stay in business for so long.

      The big surprise isn’t Amazon; it’s that someone else didn’t come along and drink their milkshake decades ago.

    • @ William

      …print book sales may have declined?

      Well. The Earth may be round…

      And it may revolve around the Sun.

      Sheesh… (now in maximum eye-rolling mode here)

  7. Smart Debut Author

    But wait…

    Weren’t ebooks supposed to be shrinking?

    And bookstores thriving, because consumers were abandoning digital and returning to print?

    I’m confused. Someone needs to help me keep my WhaleStats straight.

  8. The denial math reminds me of production quotas in old Mother Russia. Or Enron’s books. The more you lie to yourself today, the harder it’s going to be when you see what’s really happening. This trend is not going to turn around, so at some point, they’re going to have to explain how “small changes” became industry dominance.

    Fiction book sales are already more than 50% e-books, and that’s not hte entire digital picture.

    Audiobooks are shooting through the roof, and those are digital. POD is only gaining market share, and that’s digital.

    If you could count all indie sales, and you looked at offset print runs vs. all these digital formats, I’d be shocked if print made up 30% of all fiction sales. Shocked. I’d put money on it being closer to 25%.

    Looking at the Amazon bestseller lists gives you a great idea of what’s going on. If half of PRINT sales are online, and print editions barely register in the mixed-format bestseller lists, you know that those other editions (e-book and audio) are hammering print. To the tune of 70% – 80% dominance.

    And book sales on Audible, iTunes, the iBookstore, and Kobo have no print component.

    This is just sales. Any measure of “reading” that took Wattpad and fan fiction into account would show print books as being the equivalent of vinyl records or opera. Not pointing this out with glee; just surprised at how far removed from reality these numbers are. And how 25% gains are seen as “flat,” as others have pointed out.

    • Smart Debut Author

      PW reports these vaporware stats with such breathless sincerity…

      Yet the lack of any critical analysis, fact checking, or even basic sanity checking on PW’s part is mindboggling.

    • Not pointing this out with glee; just surprised at how far removed from reality these numbers are.

      I read it with glee. An increase in eBook market share increases the pool of consumers who buy independent eBooks..

      • Distinguo: An increase in ebook market share is very good news for the likes of us – but it would be unwise to take one’s numbers from people who are still desperately trying to figure out how many beans make five.

        • True, but their figures are likely to be biased against Indies and ebooks, so the fact that they have to admit things are what they are, probably means that they are better than they say (for us, anyway).

          • Yeah, but I prefer actual information. I’d rather not waste my time reading things that I know are wrong, and trying to figure out exactly how wrong they are.

  9. Smart Debut Author

    E-books Gained, Online Retailers Slipped in 2014

    Ah, I see…

    So readers must now be buying their ebooks in brick and mortar bookstores.


    • Noticed that, did you?

      I think what we have here is an infinite number of monkeys whistling past an infinite number of graveyards, in the hopes that Shakespeare will magically reappear and sign a publishing contract with them.

      • You didn’t add the bit of them hoping they even recognize the next ‘Shakespeare’ before rejecting him/her and they then try that self-pub thingy … 😉


        For every credibility gap, there is a gullibility fill. — R. Clopton

        • Oh, that part is simple. The next Shakespeare will look exactly like the last one. Then the author that everybody picked as the next Shakespeare bombs, and somebody completely unheralded becomes the biggest name in literature, and off they go looking for the next one of that.

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