U.S. 2007 wholesale e-book sales: $31.7M, or 23.6 percent over 2006—but should they have been still higher?

IDPF2007TradeStats Update here. The growth appears to have been higher than earlier IDPF information, shared in a Feb. 17 letter to members, suggested. – D.R.

American e-book sales in 2007, by “12-15 trade publishers,” jumped to $31.7 million or 23.6 percent higher than in 2006. Click on the image for a more detailed view.

The wholesale numbers are from the International Digital Publishing Forum, which participates in a statistics program with the Association of American Publishers. An IDPF letter to members used the phrase “year to date,” but I’d assume the $31.7 million is a complete annual figure. See the IDPF’s Web site for details.

Just part of the U.S. and global e-book industries

Remember, this is just part of the e-book industry (no “library, educational or professional electronic sales”) and that the retail figure might actually be in the $60 million range. With all factors plugged  for the 12-15 publishers, I suspect retail sales might be well past $80 million—still just a fraction of the tens of billions of dollars spent on paper books, but some progress just the same, especially if you toss in numbers from small houses not in the survey.

The U.S. retail total for houses of all sizes—and this is just speculation—could exceed $100 million. The global retail total is most likely in excess of $350 million if you consider past numbers from Japan and Korea and allow for other countries.

The Kindle question

No, it’s still too early to determine the extent to which Amazon’s Kindle will boost sales in the U.S. and elsewhere. Significantly, the Kindle didn’t go on sale until November 2007. Oh, to find out what the  Kindle will do once enough units are out there for e-book sales stats to be meaningful.  Remember, the selection of Kindle books is now much larger than for the Sony, and the K-machine lets consumers download books via wireless, which many shoppers will see as much simpler than the Sony’s procedure. The Kindle made the cover of Newsweek, however, and the publicity should have revved up e-book sales in general. But you never know.

The Sony mystery

The Sony reader should have benefited from the Kindle publicity—we’ll see. Meanwhile I remain curious why the Reader, which came out in late 2006, didn’t bump up the e-book business in 2007 more than it actually did. A 23.6 percent increase is nothing to sneer at, but with the Sony in the equation, it should have been bigger. To a great extent, is the Sony just stealing away business from PDAs and other alternative platforms, meaning that the total market isn’t growing as rapidly as we might expect? Keep in mind that Sony’s e-store has played up books from major publishers, the very kind most likely to send in stats to the AAP-IDPF collection effort. I’d welcome thoughts from Sony.

Additional info from the IDPF: “This data does not include library, educational or professional electronic sales…The definition used for reporting electronic book sales is ‘All books delivered electronically over the Internet OR to hand-held reading devices.'”

Related: Slow e-book rev growth reported by the IDPF in the first three quarters of ’07—but let’s think long term and also put these iffy numbers in context, an earlier TeleBlog item. Remember, that observation included only growth within the year 2007. The fourth quarter of 2007, moreover, just as in previous years, made a difference—$8.2M compared to ’06’s $7M.

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About David Rothman (6820 Articles)
David Rothman is the founder and publisher of the TeleRead e-book site and cofounder of He is also author of The Solomon Scandals novel and six tech-related books on topics ranging from the Internet to laptops. Passionate on digital divide issues, he is now pushing for the creation of a national digital library endowment.

5 Comments on U.S. 2007 wholesale e-book sales: $31.7M, or 23.6 percent over 2006—but should they have been still higher?

  1. I suspect that the initial release of the Sony device didn’t bump up the ebook sales much because most of the people buying it were already ebook buyers, they simply switched their business to a different device/store. I know my ebook buying habits haven’t changed much in the last 9 years, but I moved platforms from Palm (eReader) to Sony last year.
    The Kindle, in theory, appealed more to new ebook users than the Sony due to its increased visibility on the Amazon site. I still suspect that most of the early adopters were already ebook users interested in trying out a new platform.

  2. With all the free literature out on the web, I don’t think dollars is a good measure of quantity of e-books being read. Perhaps if they removed the DRM it might come closer, but it still lacks many of the books I have read for example. Do we know the number of documents that Project Gutenberg has delivered, via their site or others that offer their documents like for example? I have read 20 e-books already this year and none of them will show up in dollar figures.

  3. 31.7M shows that ebook sales are improving as compared to 2006 and with kindle getting much publicity, I think that figure will rise.

  4. Well, is showing more than 11,000 downloads this week alone, so if we count the freebies, I suspect the market is quite healthy indeed.

  5. Currently we have around 100.000 downloads (books+RSS) a month on Feedbooks.

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