Ebooks make up 21% of total book sales

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From About Ebooks:

In January 2022 the American Association of Publishers, which represents mostly mainstream consumer book publishers, reported that among their members ebook sales accounted for 11.3% of sales revenue. Bear in mind that this figure relates to revenue from the sale of popular, consumer ebooks released by established trade publishers. It largely excludes sales of educational and technical titles, and sales through self-publishing platforms such as Kindle Unlimited. And those categories typically comprise a much higher percentage of digital sales. But if you’re curious about the books you see in your local bookstore, then 11.3% is a useful data point. In October 2021, research outfit NPD Group reported that, “e-books account for 18% of sales, or more than one in six books sold.”

Consider Mark Williams’ argument in a December 2021  where he says, “AAP reports October ’21 ebook REVENUE was worth $84 million. For the same month Kindle Unlimited paid out $39.8 million in ROYALTIES. Just how big is the real ebook market no-one wants to talk about?” This simple comparison suggests that overall (at least US) ebook market share by revenue might be as much as double the AAP’s reported stats — something like 28%.

. . . .

In January 2020 the UK’s Bookseller estimated global ebook sales to be 19% of total book sales by revenue, and a whopping 36% by unit sales (number of books sold). This massive figure is somewhat driven by the number of back-list ebooks offered by publishers for free or under $1.00.

Link to the rest at About Ebooks

9 thoughts on “Ebooks make up 21% of total book sales”

    • Depends on who’s counting. 😉

      Publishers selling expensive books prefer revenue (especially non-inflation adjusted), authors looking to grow their presence should prefer eyeball-hours (especially title by title data) and everybody benefits from knowing unit sales.

  1. The article confuses Kindle Digital Platform–KDP–with Kindle Unlimited, which is a subscriber service. Many, many books are published on KDP but are not entered into KU, which requires exclusivity (not being posted on other sites). Unlike KDP, KU pays per page read rather than conventional royalties.

    As to audiobooks, while I would love to have my 107 books available in audio, so far it is not viable to me as a currently self-publishing author (none of my previous trad pubs chose to issue my books in audio either, sad to say). There are many drawbacks to using royalty share–more than I can easily list here–and there would be a large time commitment on my part to screen narrators, listen to and correct the recordings, research the array of platforms available along with the ever-changing terms, and of course marketing. I am also told by other authors that it is important to put an entire series, or at least multiple books, into audio in order to market them effectively.

    The above-mentioned 200 sales might cover the cost but that does not include my time, a great deal of it, especially if multiple books are involved. And many of my readers who inquire about audio specify that they would listen to them free via libraries.

    Audio is great and has a large audience. But an author’s time and energy are limited, so please don’t overlook these.

    • The old rule of thumb: “Would the time be better spent writing?”

      As for KU VS KDP, KU is the smaller of the two by far. If you sant to minimize the size of the ebook market pretending KU is all there is is useful because its mostly Indies taking advantage of th at channel.

      (Best guess as to the size of ebook *sales* is over a billion. Including both Indies and Trapub.)

      • To be clear: that is for KDP sales alone. Not all the books in the Kindle store, much less the entirety of the ebook markets.

      • The discussion of Kindle Unlimited comes from ebooks.com. I don’t know why they would want to minimize the size of the ebook market.

        • Dunno, but there’s better data to be found than what comes from the pbook establishment or using KU as a stand in for sales of all four classes of narrative fiction ebooks when it is the smallest of category in market presence and not even sales. Comparing ebook rentals to all book sales is meaningless.


          1- BPH ebooks typically sell at higher than the KDP price band and their presence is negotiated by publisher.
          2- APub books have an outsized market presence because of their discounted sales as Prime “freebies” which boosts their ranking and full price sales.
          3- Then there are the non-BPH KDP titles from both indies and tradpubs that stick to the KDP price band.
          4- Finally there are the “wide distribution” books and direct sales by tbe publisher and/ or author.

          The BPHs, if you take them at their word, move at least $2B in ebooks by themselves of which Amazon is over 75%. Non BPH KDP books were, at last credible report, a bigger sector within the Kindle store, and APub was getting close. So anyway you look at it total ebook sales have to run north of $4B and probably $5B. Versus KU which delivers over half a billion to authors and an unknown sum to Amazon.

          Meanwhile, the official trade book nunbers (taken with a pound of salt) run $14-16B in sales (including audio) which makes ebooks 30%+. And that is just off old public data.

          Unless they’re using 5 year old data they are seriously undercounting ebook sales.

  2. “Meanwhile, digital audiobooks continue their explosive growth and sales increased by 5% for the month and brought in $62.1 million in revenue.”

    I hear two objections from authors that have avoided converting their books to audio: it’s too expensive, or I don’t like listening to audio. Let me tackle both.

    1. It cost between $0 and $$,$$$. Royalty share offers a free option but many authors can find a quality narrator at $1,000 for a 65,000-word book. 200 sales will cover that cost.

    2. I don’t like reading ebooks, but my readers do. Nuff said.

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