Ebook Shift Accelerating


Late last year, I predicted we would absolutely see ebook sales hit 25% of the book market in 2011, and possibly even break the 50% barrier this year as well, but absolutely do it in 2012 at the latest. That was a bit ahead of a lot of industry analysts, at the time.
But those predictions are looking pretty on target right now.
Last week, Fortune magazine ran an article talking to a Barnes & Nobles exec, who said that in the next twenty four months is when the industry will shift – meaning more than half of all book sales would be digital. That’s a big deal, because B&N has a lot invested in the print industry, so it’s advantageous to them to make conservative estimates.
Today, Nathan Bransford (agent, writer, and well known blogger) estimated that ebooks already represent about 20-30% of the market. Bob Mayer is predicting 50%+ ebook market share by the end of this year. Dominique Raccah said last month that she expects ebooks to reach or approach the 50% mark this year for “certain types of books”. We’ve also seem publishers announcing as much as 25% of their sales in certain areas have been ebooks in January and February.
Right now? I think we’re on line to see fiction ebooks break the 50% mark this year. I see non-fiction still lagging behind, and I think that will take longer to catch up. People still like having paper for their reference material, and not all non-fiction books work well on 7″ eInk readers. But we’ll continue to see growth there, as well.
I think the question is really not will fiction hit 50% this year – but what happens next? What happens when indies can hit the majority of their market with the click of a few buttons? What happens when bookstores cease to be the primary place people buy books?
That future is almost here.


12 Replies to “Ebook Shift Accelerating”

  1. I think right now what we’re seeing are agents and small publishers trying to snatch up authors, especially those with backlists and convince them to publish with them; offering services the authors could pay a flat fee for. It’s both a smart move and a sign of desperation on their part. I think a lot of authors are gong to get caught in these deals, giving up over 50% of their potential income over the long term for services that would cost them several hundred up front. Because really, what can an agent do for you with an ebook? What can a publisher do for you?
    Thanks for the mention.

    1. Glad to mention you, Bob. I find your blog to consistent in putting valuable information out there. Actually, I need to get a link up on my blog list here…
      I completely agree about the agents and small presses. Just as bad, I’m seeing growth of lots of brand new “small presses” that specialize in this sort of taking people to the cleaners – I mean, in handling writer’s backlists and/or frontlist books for ebook production. Maybe most disturbing, I’m seeing a lot of writers who really should know better buying into these deals.
      That’s scary. There’s a shot for writer independence right now, because of the changes we’re seeing. But that won’t matter at all if the “new normal” becomes agents transforming themselves into a new breed of publishers. Then we’re just trading the old boss for a new one.

  2. I think right now what we’re seeing are agents and small publishers trying to snatch up authors, especially those with backlists and convince them to publish with them; offering services the authors could pay a flat fee for. It’s both a smart move and a sign of desperation on their part. I think a lot of authors are gong to get caught in these deals, giving up over 50% of their potential income over the long term for services that would cost them several hundred up front. Because really, what can an agent do for you with an ebook? What can a publisher do for you?Thanks for the mention.

    1. Glad to mention you, Bob. I find your blog to consistent in putting valuable information out there. Actually, I need to get a link up on my blog list here…
      I completely agree about the agents and small presses. Just as bad, I’m seeing growth of lots of brand new “small presses” that specialize in this sort of taking people to the cleaners – I mean, in handling writer’s backlists and/or frontlist books for ebook production. Maybe most disturbing, I’m seeing a lot of writers who really should know better buying into these deals.

      That’s scary. There’s a shot for writer independence right now, because of the changes we’re seeing. But that won’t matter at all if the “new normal” becomes agents transforming themselves into a new breed of publishers. Then we’re just trading the old boss for a new one.

    1. YW. =)
      What interests me here is how many people are still quoting the 10% figure as the percentage of market share ebooks hold. I don’t think we’re at 25% for books overall, but I think it’s pretty important to break fiction out from non-fiction at this point, because there seems to be a huge disparity between them. Fiction is going to hit that 50% mark a long time before non-fiction will.

    1. YW. =)
      What interests me here is how many people are still quoting the 10% figure as the percentage of market share ebooks hold. I don’t think we’re at 25% for books overall, but I think it’s pretty important to break fiction out from non-fiction at this point, because there seems to be a huge disparity between them. Fiction is going to hit that 50% mark a long time before non-fiction will.

  3. Just to use an anecdote (cause we all know anecdotal evidence is the best evidence possible :P), my mom and my mother-in-law do pretty much all their new book reading via ebook on iPad and Kindle, respectively. They’re both in their 60s and FAR from super tecnically savvy. If they’re any indication, the floodgates are wide open, and not just with the youngsters.
    It’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure.

  4. Just to use an anecdote (cause we all know anecdotal evidence is the best evidence possible :P), my mom and my mother-in-law do pretty much all their new book reading via ebook on iPad and Kindle, respectively. They’re both in their 60s and FAR from super tecnically savvy. If they’re any indication, the floodgates are wide open, and not just with the youngsters.
    It’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure.

  5. Not only it is interesting, but also it is a big business opportunity, one that can flourish in the international recession period we’re going through.
    Many of those who seize it, (whether they’re authors, editors, publishers or managers), will profit from it.
    I’m impressed though that there are authors who counter argue the notion of indie publishing. I can understand publishers, but authors?
    As I mentioned in the post I wrote, the most provided counter arguments for that is the 0.99$ price vs. value and “what, now everyone who wants to publish a book, can do it?”
    Free market rules, adjust or don’t adjust, make your choices and put them into application. And in any case, most readers are not stupid, don’t insult them. They will sort sooner or later through good and bad writing, so that’s not the point.
    Those authors for sure will have the “prey” sign (LOL) that Kevin said to me in his Pay’in For It post…and a big sword hanging over their head…:D

  6. Not only it is interesting, but also it is a big business opportunity, one that can flourish in the international recession period we’re going through.Many of those who seize it, (whether they’re authors, editors, publishers or managers), will profit from it.

    I’m impressed though that there are authors who counter argue the notion of indie publishing. I can understand publishers, but authors?
    As I mentioned in the post I wrote, the most provided counter arguments for that is the 0.99$ price vs. value and “what, now everyone who wants to publish a book, can do it?”
    Free market rules, adjust or don’t adjust, make your choices and put them into application. And in any case, most readers are not stupid, don’t insult them. They will sort sooner or later through good and bad writing, so that’s not the point.

    Those authors for sure will have the “prey” sign (LOL) that Kevin said to me in his Pay’in For It post…and a big sword hanging over their head…:D

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