PubTrack Digital, part of the NPD book group, recently released a report on the e-book industry, tracking sales from about 450 publishers. Here’s a brief summary of the findings:
- Traditional publishing e-book unit sales fell 10% in 2017. Down from 180 million units in 2016 to 162 million last year
- E-books accounted for 19% of total units (both print and digital) last year, down from 21% in 2016
- Adult fiction remained the most popular e-book category, with The Handmaid’s Tale being the top selling e-book
- The steepest decline in e-book sales last year was in the children’s category, where sales fell 22%
If you have been following the e-book industry, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Over the last few years, there have been multiple media accounts commenting on the shrinking e-book market. In fact, Nielsen’s reports put 2016 ebook unit sales from the top 30 traditional publishers down a full 16% from their 2015 numbers.
However, this isn’t the complete picture.
Although traditionally published ebook sales fell 10% last year, audiences moved to indie publishers, largely on Amazon. More than 1,000 authors using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program earned royalties of over $100,000, CEO Jeff Bezos declared in a recent shareholder letter. A company spokesperson said e-book sales at the company have continued to grow globally through traditional outlets and subscription services, specifically Kindle Unlimited.
The reason comes down to pricing.
According to Publishers Weekly, “price is the top priority for e-book buyers when considering which book to purchase.”
Earlier in 2015, the Big Five publishing houses raised e-book prices to around $8 a book, far higher than the $3-a-book price point charged by independent publishers.
The result: traditional publishers have, essentially, priced themselves out of the market and “nearly 80% of consumer dollars spent on ebooks in the U.S. now go through Amazon,” according to The 2017 Author Earnings report.