2012 Book Sales Strong for Both Print and eBooks

by Joel Friedlander on June 20, 2012 · 17 comments

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According to a report by Jason Boog in Galleycat,

Net sales revenue from eBooks have surpassed hardcover books in the first quarter of 2012.

According to the March Association of American Publishers (AAP) net sales revenue report (collecting data from 1,189 publishers), adult eBook sales were $282.3 million while adult hardcover sales counted $229.6 million during the first quarter of 2012. During the same period last year, hardcover accounted for $335 million in sales while eBooks logged $220.4 million.

Here’s the chart from the AAP report:


What Do You See?

One interesting figure from the first quarter book sales is the “Downloaded audio” books, and the report points out that this is likely due to the explosive growth of mobile computing, something we’ve been talking about and looking forward to for a couple of years.

By category, the biggest gainer for ebooks was YA/Children (not shown in the chart) with an almost 233 percent increase over the same period last year.

But it’s also interesting to look at

  • The print versus ebook balance. Although ebooks are growing quickly, print books in 2012 still account for 65% of overall revenue, with ebooks at about 29%.
  • The growth in revenue from ebooks would have been treated as fantasy just a couple of years ago.
  • Mass market paperbacks continue to show their vulnerability to the cheaper, more convenient and just as disposable ebook format. It may not be long before the economy of scale that made these books cheap and available ceases to exist.
  • Audiobooks? Have you ever bought one? Is this something you might plan to do with your books?

Of course, we know that even though the sample size in this study was pretty large, it very likely doesn’t include any self-publishers or perhaps even any of the new, ebook- and print on demand-oriented micro publishers that are springing up constantly.

What the revenue of the entire industry might be is anyone’s guess, but planning to produce both print and ebook versions of your books looks like a good bet for most self-publishers.

Photo by mind on fire

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    { 11 comments… read them below or add one }

    Nathan Lowell June 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    For me the significant take away is that the AAP membership is reporting a growth of 2% over all. That’s pretty good considering mainstream publishing consistently overprices ebook offerings. Whether they do it to shore up flagging paper (the normal cannibalization issue) or they just don’t understand the market is really moot. Of course paper is going to hold up. Supply-demand curves are going to keep unit sales down as long as an ebook is priced at (or above) paper.

    What’s really astonishing is how much ground ebooks have made in spite of that very uneven playing field.


    Harry June 20, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Assuming the numbers in the AAP chart are correct, the Galleycat article is atrociously misleading. It tells us that hardcover sales went from 335 million one year to 229 million the next, therefore going DOWN by over 105 million dollars, when in fact they went UP by 6 million.
    In fact, paperbacks went down by almost exactly the amount ebooks went up, so it would seem that, so far, hardcover sales are not being affected by ebooks at all.
    The great news is, there’s plenty of people buying books.
    Perhaps we should all pitch in and buy one on mathematics for Jason Boog.


    Joel Friedlander June 20, 2012 at 9:18 am

    I think we have to assume the chart is correct, thanks for pointing that out Harry.


    bowerbird June 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    well… the error was an easy one to make, since
    he just took the number from an adjacent column.


    in the comments section, someone pointed out
    the error a full _three_ days ago, and it _still_
    is not corrected. so much for reader feedback.

    to me, the initial error could’ve been forgiven…

    but the fact that it’s remained incorrect so long?
    even after it had been pointed out by a reader?
    that cannot be forgiven…



    M. Louisa Locke June 20, 2012 at 6:53 am

    Dear Joel,

    I was particularly interested in the audiobook statistic. I am in the process of getting my first historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, produced as an audio book through ACX (Audio Creation Exchange) and so far the process has gone very smoothly. I chose the option of royalty sharing (ACX gets a cut, and I split the rest 50-50 with the person who is narrating the book–so there has been no out of pocket expenses.

    What I haven’t seen written about is revenues from audio books sales when indie authors talk about their experiences-so I really don’t know what to expect. Maids of Misfortune is a steady seller, even after being out for 2 1/2 years, so it is visible on Amazon’s categories, but I don’t know if that will be enough for the audio book to garner sales on its own–or if there is some special way I will need to market it. I would love to hear from anyone else who has had experience with this.

    M. Louisa


    Joel Friedlander June 20, 2012 at 9:15 am


    I think the ACX process solves the biggest hurdle for self-publishers in producing audiobooks, since the up front costs for voice talent, studio time, production and packaging can run into the thousands, without an guarantee of recovering your investment.

    It would be good to know whether they also get you distribution into audiobook catalogs, because it’s likely that heavy users of this format know where to shop for them.


    Karen June 20, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Joel, Thanks for all the incredibly helpful posts here. Would you be able to give any guidance as to where to get this kind of helpful info — and any blogs or sites that cover more specifically children’s picture books and digital publishing? Again, so many thanks for everything you do here. I start off most mornings reading your posts and those in your roundup.


    Joel Friedlander June 20, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Karen, thanks, that’s appreciated. The best site I know for children’s book authors is http://www.jacketflap.com/ and I bet you could find some people there with the same interests, so check it out.


    Karen June 20, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Joel, many thanks for the suggestion. It is much appreciated!


    Uwe Skrzypczak July 27, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Joel thanks for the suggestion. This is very interest for me.


    Katie McAleece June 20, 2012 at 4:20 am

    Great insight, as usual. Really interesting numbers too. I’m surprised at the statistics, but I guess I’m not surprised at the same time. If that even makes sense. Haha!


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