Think e-book sales are slumping? Think again

How_to_Lie_with_Statistics_Book_Cover.67104008_stdIn his latest column in the Irish Times, Eoin Purcell addresses the myth of the “e-book slump” that has been promulgated in the last few months. The apparent “slump” can be explained by the absence of new smash hits like The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey that gave the previous year’s e-book figures an uncharacteristic amount of inflation. He also notes that the American Association of Publishers figures don’t take into account self-publishing, which accounts for 25% of Amazon’s e-book sales.

One of the problems is that ebooks have become so large a market, more than $1 billion in the US alone in 2013, and have grown so quickly, that even large increases now appear quite small in percentage terms, and modest increases seem tiny. Ebooks outside of the US continue to grow – markets such as Ireland, France, Spain and Germany are only now beginning to see the growth that the UK & US markets experienced two and three years ago. That growth has not been factored into AAP figures. If it had been, there would have been no pieces about falling ebook sales.

It’s been known for a long time that statistics can be made to say pretty much whatever you want them to. So, are these figures an intentional attempt to harm the e-book market and boost the sliding print market? Or just a well-meaning but mistaken attempt to make sense of the current market? Either way, it seems reasonable to assume that e-books are here to stay, no matter how the sales figures might fluctuate.

(Found via The Passive Voice.)

3 Comments on Think e-book sales are slumping? Think again

  1. Eoin could be wrong about the indies seeing more growth than legacy publishers. Much to my dismay, I have to report that Smashwords saw only minimal revenue growth for 2013. Much of the year was flat when compared to 2012.

    That surprised me; I wrote a post much like yours:

  2. I came across this letter to the editor in NYTIMES by an 80 year old retired pastor in California. He wrote, and it was published in the TIMES but online only, not in the print edition, for some reason.

    To the Editor:

    “Booksellers Wary About Holiday Sales” (Business Day, Dec. 16. 2013) notes

    that e-book sales are down without citing what is perhaps the major

    reason for the decline. Digital sales were attractive to readers like

    me when most new titles were available for $9.99 or less. Now the

    price of e-books is in many cases approaching the cost of print books.

    No wonder “the e-book thrill is gone.”


    Concord, Calif., Dec. 16, 2013

  3. forever entwined…the year end summary: The synopsis of comparative paper/screen and page/scroll functionality of the monographic book by Robert Bolick is fairly miraculous and portrays the actual advances of understanding of the inherent interdependencies and the persistent functions inherent in the formats.

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