Ebook/Ereader Growth

Digital sales up 10% in first quarter

21 July 2014

From The Bookseller:

Consumer e-book sales rose 10% in the first quarter of 2014, according to the Publishers Association, with strong performances from children’s e-books, and digital downloads of audio titles.

The figure show the continuing slowdown in digital growth rates, after last year’s  industry-wide growth rates of about 20%, but also how e-books continue to gain ground over print-book sales, which were down 2.5% in the first quarter, according to Nielsen BookScan data.

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The PA said the numbers continued the increasingly strong performance of digital formats which in 2013 represented 16% of total book sales, and has grown a massive 305% over the past five years.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

July 2014 Author Earnings Report

17 July 2014

From Author Earnings:

It has been nearly half a year since we first pulled data for nearly every ranked ebook on Amazon.com’s thousands of category bestseller lists. This is our third quarterly report, and every data set tells us something new. With enough reports, we should be able to spot emerging trends in the world of digital publishing in order to help authors make the best decisions with their manuscripts.

As before, we are dividing the ebooks up by publication path while looking at the following four measures: the number of ranked titles, the number of unit sales, gross earnings, and authors’ earnings. Our primary focus at AuthorEarnings.com is the writer, so we pay special attention to the last of these measures.

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Of note here is that all of our graphs show remarkable consistency across data sets taken over the course of half a calendar year. And with our latest data set, we estimate that self-published authors now account for 31% of total daily ebook sales regardless of genre. This makes indie authors, as a cohort, the largest publisher of ebooks on Amazon.com in terms of market share.


Gross sales are where it begins to get interesting. Now we are factoring price into the equation. We know self-published ebooks cost less than ebooks from the Big 5, but how much less? Being able to see the combined effect of price and sales rank in a single graph for 120,000 ebooks is very powerful. A lot of small discrepancies begin to average out with such a massive sample size. And while indies have seen positive movement across all three quarters, it’s too soon to tell if this is a global or a seasonal trend. It could be that indies promote their books year-round while major publishers pull out all the stops around the Holidays. This time next year, we should be able to answer this question.


In February, we were able to announce that self-published authors are earning nearly as much as Big 5 authors combined when it comes to ebook sales on the Kindle Store. In the two quarters since, the earnings for Big 5 authors has shrunk while that for indies has grown. We can now say that self-published authors earn more in royalties than Big 5 authors, combined.

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It bears putting a number here and stressing what we are seeing: Self-published authors are now earning nearly 40% of all ebook royalties on the Kindle store. The days of looking at self-publishing as a last option are long gone. A lot has changed in six months.

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It wasn’t surprising to see that most Big 5 books employ DRM, but we were shocked to see that it is practically 100% of them. Indies, on the other hand, locked down roughly 50% of their titles. Since there isn’t any variation in the Big 5 books, we are forced to look at the self-published titles for any effect on sales, and indeed there is one. The 50% of non-DRM ebooks account for 64% of total unit sales.

Indie titles without DRM sell twice as many copies each, on average, as those with DRM.


We believe this is one of the most important graphs we have ever published. At a glance, we can see how each publishing path performs in the top genre categories, and we can also see how these genres compare to one another in both total revenue and market share by publishing path. This last distinction is crucial, because the old-time advice to “never self-publish” has now faded to the advice that “self-publishing only works in certain genres.”

The truth is that, regardless of which publishing path an author chooses, some genres of trade ebooks sell vastly better than others, period. Other genres languish. For Big 5 authors, Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense is by far the most lucrative genre. But you don’t hear many people assert that traditional publishing is only good for people writing sleuths. Another common refrain is that nonfiction and literary fiction are uncrackable genres for indies. But in non-fiction, self-published authors are earning 26% to the Big 5′s 35%.

It turns out that Big 5 publishers have nearly as small a portion of Romance earnings (18%) and Science Fiction & Fantasy earnings (29%) as indies have of Literary Fiction earnings (13%) and Nonfiction earnings (26%), respectively.

Self publishing isn’t just viable for Romance and Sci-Fi/Fantasy. While indie authors are absolutely dominating traditionally-published authors in those particular genres, indies have also taken significant market share inall genres, including Mystery/Thriller/Suspense and Non-fiction. The market for literary fiction is anemic for indie authors simply because it is an anemic segment of publishing overall.

In fact, Literary Fiction makes up only 2% of Amazon ebook unit sales and 3% of Amazon ebook dollar sales. More startling is the fact that 20% of that 3% belongs to a single aggressively-promoted title, The Goldfinch.

Link to the rest at Author Earnings.

The Tenured vs. Debut Author Report

17 July 2014

UPDATE: Oops. Posted this late last night and was off the grid this morning. Latest report up above.

From Author Earnings:

In our most recent earnings report, one chart jumped out at us and begged for deeper analysis: It was a look at daily author earnings according to publication date, and it revealed the heavy reliance Big 5 publishers have on the sale of their backlist titles. The same chart showed, less surprisingly, that self-published authors are making the vast majority of their earnings on recently published works. In a single chart we were witness to the economic effects of new participants entering an industry in which they were formerly uncompetitive. The same chart made it apparent that the effects self-publishing will have on the trade book industry have only just begun.

Because of this chart, we began looking more deeply at authors from two different camps: those who debuted prior to the explosion of self-publishing and those who debuted after. Authors getting their start today will of course be joining the latter camp. And we believe those authors will want to know the following:

• Big-5 publishers are massively reliant on their most established authors to the tune of 63% of their e-book revenue.

• Roughly 46% of traditional publishing’s fiction dollars are coming from e-books.

• Very few authors who debut with major publishers make enough money to earn a living—and modern advances don’t cover the difference.

• In absolute numbers, more self-published authors are earning a living wage today than Big-5 authors.

• When comparing debut authors who have equal time on the market, the difference between self-published and Big-5 authors is even greater.

In this report, we will also reveal how e-book earnings represent roughly 64% of a traditionally published fiction author’s income, and therefore why authors should focus less on statistics geared toward publisher earnings and trade bookstore sales and consider their own incomes instead. Finally, we will tackle the difficult question of just how many authors are earning a living wage today. The results are sobering. I’ll spoil it for you and say that there aren’t many. But there are reasons to celebrate. Read on to see why.

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[We started] wondering how much of traditionally-published author revenue was coming from new releases by long-tenured authors, and how much of it was coming from debut authors. This is a crucial question for a new artist hoping to break into an entertainment sector. What we were hoping to discover is how many seats are left on the traditionally published bus. So we divided authors and books into “New” and “Old” using January 1, 2010 as a cutoff date, and checked.

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This final chart reveals a startling insight: If the Big 5 hadn’t signed a new author since 2009, and simply released new works from their long-established authors, they would still be making 63% of the e-book revenue that they are making today. Ownership of backlist and long-tenured authors is quite clearly big publishing’s most powerful commodity. This goes a long way toward explaining ever more restrictive reversion and non-compete clauses in publishing contracts. It also lends credence to rumors that some top-name authors are already receiving ebook royalties higher than 25% of net. Publishers rely heavily on these established authors and may be willing to violate their own most favored nation clauses in an attempt to retain them.

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This time, when comparing only the earnings of “New” authors who debuted after 2010, we see that below a tiny handful of mega-selling Big-5 debuts (like Veronica Roth), far more “New” indie authors are making a good living from their Kindle e-books than their “New” Big-5 peers. This is a logarithmic scale, which means a little separation signifies quite a difference in outcomes.

Some might argue that this comparison does not reveal the entire picture, because best-selling traditionally-published authors have a healthier complement of print sales than their indie counterparts. However, non-ebook revenue for traditional-published authors makes up a smaller percentage of their author earnings than you might think, and this is especially true for authors of fiction. To see this requires a digression, one that may be just as important for the aspiring author as our larger analysis in this report.

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While only 32% of the publishing industry’s gross revenue currently comes from e-books, nearly 64% of the average traditionally-published fiction author’s earnings is coming from their e-books. Earnings for the average genre-fiction author will skew even further toward their e-book sales. Perhaps an e-book-based comparison between publishing types is not so unfair a comparison after all. Especially when considering that the gain of 8% – 15% royalties on print sales means taking a massive cut in e-book royalties—from 70% of gross to 25% of net.

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[This data] neatly captures so much of what is going on in the e-book market today, mainly that there are far more indie debut authors from 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 who are now holding spots on the Amazon bestseller charts than Big-5 debut authors. Even more striking, the number of today’s bestsellers from these “New” indie debut authors increases steeply year-over-year, while the number of today’s bestsellers from “New” Big-5 debut authors stays flat. The number of today’s bestsellers from small to medium publisher debut authors is also growing year over year, although not at the same explosive rate with which indie debuts are grabbing and holding slots on the charts.

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After years and years of querying and jumping through gatekeeper hoops, it appears that even the less-than-1% who are lucky enough to land an agent and a Big-5 publishing contract can’t manage to quit their day jobs. (This is an observation in the data that matches what we have seen anecdotally in the publishing and bookselling trenches).

By contrast, we see over 700 Indie-published authors who debuted in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 who are today earning more than $25,000/year from their Kindle e-books alone. For these authors, e-book sales on other platforms and POD print sales will add another 20%-30% on average to this total. It’s easy to see that, for the past 4 years, and even taking lost print sales into consideration, far more Indie authors than Big-5 authors are earning a living wage from their writing.

Link to the rest at Author Earnings

Appeal of print over ebooks intangible to Kiwis

4 July 2014

From stuff.co.nz:

At a certain type of BBQ or dinner party the printed book versus e-reader debate is always likely to break out.

Printed book defenders tend to be more forceful and emotional in their advocacy.

Their preference for the printed book is based on intangible factors such as the feel of a book and the smell of a book. A deep passion that the traditional book is the right and proper way to read and should never be allowed to die is evident.

E-reader advocates tend to see it as a no brainer and point to more functional advantages such as lighting , weight and cost.

A UMR research online survey, using a SAYit database throws some hard numbers into the mix.

Twenty-one per cent of New Zealanders surveyed declared they owned a hand-held device used primarily for e-book reading.

A very high level of readership of books were declared. Thirty-four per cent of New Zealanders said they had read all or part of 20 print or e-books or listened to audio books in the last 12 months. Only 7 per cent had declared they had not read even part of a print or e-book or listened to an audio book.

This was much higher levels of declared readership than the USA.

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On the crunch question of the best way to read, printed books were the winner. Amongst those who had at least started one e-book, 35 per cent preferred to read books in print, 22 per cent on an e-reader and 44 per cent went for the prefer both equally option.

Those most in favour of e-books were predictably under 30 year olds who only preferred the printed book by a 28 per cent to 27 per cent margin.

Those aged 45 to 49 were the most hostile age cohort for e-books with 42 per cent preferring the printed version and 18 per cent an e-reader.

Link to the rest at stuff.co.nz

Here’s What the Future of Reading Looks Like

29 June 2014

From New York magazine:

Software is eating the world. It’s also eating the book.

For years, traditional book publishers have hoped that standalone e-readers — Kindles, Nooks, and the like — would be their salvation, replacing paper-and-ink books as the diversion of choice for a new generation of readers. But several new data points suggest that’s not happening. In fact, it seems clearer than ever that the future of reading isn’t on reading devices at all. It’s on your phone.

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“E-readers are looking like the next iPod,” Mashable writes today, noting that smartphones and tablets with e-reader apps are poised to cannibalize sales of dedicated e-readers in the same way that the iPhone – which had all the capabilities of an iPod, plus calling and texting and tons of other apps – killed its single-feature predecessor.

The death of the standalone e-reader might be good news for consumers, who will have one fewer gadget to buy and lug around. But it’s bad news for the book industry. If you’ve ever tried to read a book on your phone, you’ll know why. Reading on an original Kindle or a Nook is an immersive experience. There are no push notifications from other apps to distract you from your novel, no calendar reminders or texts popping up to demand your immediate attention. And this immersion is partly why people who use dedicated e-readers tend to buy a lot of books. (One survey indicated that e-book readers read about 24 books a year, compared to 15 books a year for paper-and-ink readers.)

E-book sales aren’t necessarily correlated with the popularity of standalone e-book readers, and the publishing industry could still have a successful digital transition if it convinces iPhone and Android users to buy e-books in the same quantities as Kindle and Nook users. But there’s no getting around the fact that smartphones aren’t designed for focused, sustained reading.

Link to the rest at New York and thanks to Patricia for the tip.

Self-publishing boom lifts sales by 79% in a year

13 June 2014

From The Guardian:

Self-published books’ share of the UK market grew by 79% in 2013, with 18m self-published books bought by UK readers last year, according to new statistics.

With print sales falling by 10% last year, and book purchasing as a whole down 4%, ebook sales continue to grow, according to Nielsen’s comprehensive tracking of book purchases, up 20% in the UK in 2013, with 80m ebooks bought by UK consumers, to a value of £300m. But it is the DIY market which is showing the most eye-watering growth, up 79% to 18m self-published titles purchased, worth £59m, according to the statistics released on Friday.

Self-published books still account for a tiny proportion of the overall market – 5% of the 323m total books bought, and 3% of the £2185m spent on books last year. But, presenting his figures at The Literary Consultancy’s Writing in a Digital Age conference this morning, Steve Bohme, research director at Nielsen Book, predicted the figure was only going to rise.

“Self-publishing is absolutely still booming,” he said. “You can see print books down, and ebooks as a whole up – but a lot of that is driven byself-publishing, which has a much higher growth rate.”

Bohme said that the more successful self-publishing is, the “more authors will look at it” as an option. “It’s a growth market in the industry. Publishers as well will be looking at it to see how they can harness that.”

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“As authors are becoming more established, they get followings, just like mainstream authors, so the self-published market is becoming more like the traditionally published market,” he said. “Self-published ebooks tend to be impulse buys, discovered by browsing in genre, or in the recommendation or offer sections. However, they are increasingly planned, via author. [So] price and blurb are the top prompts to buy self-published ebooks, but series and characters are increasingly important.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Nick for the tip.

Consumer e-books to overtake print copies in 2018

8 June 2014

From PwC:

According to PwC’s latest Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2014-2018, the UK entertainment and media (E&M) market is expected to grow by 3.1% compounded annually (CAGR) from 2013 – 2018 to a value of £64bn in 2018. In 2013, the UK had the second largest E&M market in EMEA at £58.6bn, behind Germany, and it will maintain this position to 2018.

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The UK is one of the most receptive markets in the world for e-books. In 2013, e-books accounted for 18% of all book revenue, across consumer, educational and professional books and this proportion will rise to 41% by 2018. Consumer e-books are forecast to overtake print copies in 2018.

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Media companies don’t need a digital strategy anymore; they need a business strategy, and a business model, which is fit for the digital age.

Link to the rest at PwC and thanks to Suzanne for the tip.

Can Anyone Compete with Amazon?

29 May 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

Research conducted in March by the Codex Group found that in the month Amazon’s share of new book unit purchases was 41%, dominating 65% of all online new book units, print and digital. The company achieved that percentage by not only being the largest channel for e-books, where it had a 67% market share in March, but also by having a commanding slice of the sale of print books online, where its share in March was estimated at 64%.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the only two book outlets that have a meaningful share of both the e-book and print markets, assets that are becoming increasingly important as book buyers turn more and more to online channels to purchase books. According to the newest figures from Nielsen Market Research, online outlets accounted for 41% of book purchases in 2013, while bookstore chains accounted for 22%.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to John for the tip.

Smartphones drive ebook sales in India

25 May 2014

From The Times of India:

Ashok Banker has sold 2.1 million copies of his books, including his retellings of Indian mythological epics, most prominently the eight-book series on the Ramayana. Of these, 180,000, or about 9%, have been sold as e-books or electronic books that people read on mobile devices or PCs. Every month now, 3,000 copies of each of the eight books in the series sell as e-books.

Banker’s e-books are sold through Amazon and a portal he has created called AKB eBooks, which is currently being renovated. “Once AKB eBooks reopens this June after the revamp, I expect e-books sales will rise significantly,” says Banker.

E-books may be at an inflection point in India. For most publishers, ebook sales are between 2% and 5% of business, small compared to the 30% in mature markets where ebooks are mostly read on ebook readers like Amazon’s Kindle.

But the smartphone surge, and the availability of reading apps on them, are redrawing the book market. “Few in India would want to spend a minimum of Rs 7,000 on an e-reader and then pay money to buy e-books,” says Thomas Abraham, MD of Hachette India. “But now, with tablets and smartphones (that you bought anyway) having reading apps, we are seeing the beginnings of what might well be a big change. Last year we saw a quantum jump in sales,” he says.

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In one genre – romance – e-books already do better than print books, both in India and around the world. Abraham says lower priced books that are quick reads do well as e-books.

Link to the rest at The Times of India

Book Boss Jane Friedman Talks Tech, Ebooks and Why Content Still Rules

20 May 2014

From Forbes:

Jane Friedman knows the book business.

As a young publicist in 1970, she launched the first author tour, taking Julia Child across the country to promote Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Later, as an executive at Random House she started the first audio book division inside major publishing company.

Friedman would eventually run the whole show at both Knopf and later, News Corp’s HarperCollins. She left that CEO role in 2008 but wasn’t yet done with publishing. In 2009, she jumped right back in—this time as an entrepreneur—taking advantage of the Amazon Kindle/Apple iBooks digital revelation to launch eBook publisher Open Road Media. “I’d always been entrepreneurial but within a corporation,” says Friedman.

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What she is doing is finding new readers (and new revenue) for old books. Known in the business as the backlist, these are titles (more than a year old) often ignored by the publishing marketing machine as companies move on to promote new titles. Digital publishing rights didn’t exist before 1994. Taking advantage of the surge in popularity of Amazon’s Kindle reader, in 2009 Friedman started a land grab for the rights to publish the older works of authors like Pearl Buck, Michael Chabon, Pat Conroy, Michael Crichton, Alice Walker and William Stryon. “I want [Open Road] to be backlist. I know we can get the rights. These are titles that have sold forever, and will sell forever if they’re marketed.”

Friedman offers a 50/50 profit share with authors. Her model is capital-light with no advances and, thanks to the Kindle, no printing or shipping costs. For her cut, Friedman digitizes the copy, designs the cover art and creates and runs the marketing campaigns. Most of that is done over the Web via social networks and video—mini documentaries and mash-ups touting the author.

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And while her model focuses older titles, Friedman is confident Open Road won’t exhaust the supply books available to publish:

‘We will never run out of books. We haven’t even touched public domain yet. You can put them up online and there is no royalty to pay and all the money comes to you. Now you can get them for free but have you looked at any of those free books? They’re really terrible. We pride ourselves on the reading experience. We are not a self publisher. Every week we are signing up new authors and their backlist in droves. We will do another 2,000 books this year, and another 2,000 next year.”

Link to the rest at Forbes

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