Monday, March 10, 2014

How Many Books are eBooks?

Over the last few years,  there has been a dramatic growth in ebooks. This is being fueled by new technology and sales channels. There may be any number of good reasons for this shift for readers, writers, and publishers including the self-publishing author. One reason that electronic versions of books are gaining such popularity among indie authors is that there is no upfront cost for printing. We don’t even actually “write” on paper anymore since books are completed using digital media. But how do they really stack up against traditionally published or print books? Do they sell better? Are they more widely available? You may be pleasantly surprised.

Lack of Real Numbers
According to Hugh Howey in his 7k Report, there are no industry wide numbers that demonstrate the number of ebooks that are sold each year. One reason for this lack of reliable information is that ebook distributors do not have to reveal the specific sales data to consumers. So even though you've most likely heard that ebooks only make up about one-fourth of all book sales, the data is largely flawed at best. This 25% does not account for many different genres and does not include self-published titles. This leaves a huge hole in the data. Because there is no “bookscan” for ebooks, it is a struggle to find the numbers to create a reasonable estimate of the number of books that are ebooks.

What We Do Know
We do know that self published works are seriously under-reported when it comes to gathering the stats. We also know that Amazon has been a key player in the growth of the ebook market.  However, no one knows for sure what book market share actually belongs to Amazon. By opening up the ebook market through its Kindle platform and the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program, Amazon has created an open platform for self-publishing authors. These self-published authors have become mainstream.

Staggering Stats of Amazon Best-Sellers
Trade books are referenced in terms of New York Times bestsellers. These types of books do not include titles such as children’s books, cookbooks or academic books. If we consider only New York Times bestsellers we will see that electronic books already make up about half of the sales. In Howey’s 7k Report, he looked at just Amazon bestsellers to see how ebooks stacked up against print books and the numbers were astounding. Ebooks made up nearly 90% of Amazon’s top 2,500 Bestsellers. That’s measured against audio editions, hard and soft covers and mass market paperbacks as well. And when one takes a look at the top 100 of these 2,500 bestselling books 92% were ebooks, not traditional print books.

Projections for the Future of eBooks
A look into the future is promising for the indie author as the popularity of ebooks continues to soar. There’s high consumer demand as many readers prefer the convenience of electronic readers to traditional books and distribution is a simpler process for self publishing authors. Some predict that by the middle of this year ebooks will make up half of all the books being sold. This is not unreasonable given the recent data. If there ever was a time for the indie author to publish, it’s now!
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