images.jpgBusiness Week quotes a Goldman Sachs report to this effect. According to the report ebook sales will increase fourfold in 2015 to $3.19 billion and print book sales will fall 4.9 percent to $21.7 billion. Goldman also says that Amazon’s share of the ebook market will fall to 28 percent, from the current 50 percent, and Apples share will increase from the current 10 percent to 33 precent.

I wonder if any of this makes any sense at all. It must be nice to have a job making predictions that nobody can check and that everyone will forget about in a year or so.


  1. ebook sales to increase fourfold to $3.19 billion in 2015? Then that assumes that sales in 2009 must have been about $800 million. Is this right? We can check. The AAP web site gives figures for 2009. Ebook net sales for 2009 were $313 million. Hmm… perhaps they meant 2009/10 (April to April). We do have figures for Jan and Feb 2010 – $31.9 and $28.9, and 2009 – $8.8 and $6.7. If we assume that March and April 2010 were similar to February, we can get (rounding to millions)

    $313+$32+$29*3 – $9 – $7*3 = $402 million dollars.

    So it seems that the $800 million must mean retail prices, not the net figures the publishers report, the assumption is being made that these are about double the net sales.

    OK, the $800 million for 2009/10 seems reasonable.

    Now, over the past seven years, ebook sales have risen by an annual average of 70%. Now, the end of 2014/15 is five years away. Five years of 70% growth gets us to ebook sales of $11.5 billion.

    For GS to be predicting sales to quadruple in five years, means they expect ebook growth over the next five years to be just 32% per annum. Compared to the average over the past seven years of 70% annual growth. Or the growth rate over the past couple of years of 116%.

    I can’t imagine where GS are getting their predictions from, but I’m certain they’re far too conservative on ebooks.

    Over the next five years we’re going to see increasing take up of better and cheaper ebook readers and general purpose machines (e.g. iPad) that can be used as eBook readers. I don’t see the growth rate in ebook sales dropping down to an average of 32% over the next five years.

    My prediction? ebook sales will be at least 10 times their current amount in five years time, and likely a lot higher. In hard numbers, I predict that retail US eBook sales in 2014/15 will be between $8 billion and $16 billion. And yes, that is 1/6th to 1/3rd of the (current) US book market.

  2. To me the shock was seeing that Apple is forecast to have a bigger share of the market than Amazon. Does anyone believe this a high-probability event? Personally I wouldn’t have forecast this.

    As far as sales growth, it’s generally safe to predict that super-fast-growth will slow over time. After all, if eBooks continue growing at 70% per year, it won’t be too many years before eBook sales are higher than the combined GDPs of the US and China. (Having lived through the 2000/2001 telecom collapse where vendors forecast 1000% internet traffic growth forever, I understand this caution).

    Rob Preece

  3. How can Apple have a 10% share when they just opened their store two weeks ago? If my impressions are correct, the books at the Apple store can only be read on iP*ds, so they’re of no interest to 95% of the current eReader market, and while Apple is marketing the iPad as a reading device, even from their current advertising, that’s only one small segment of the iPad market. I just don’t see Apple as a big ebook marketer, there’s no real incentive for it, especially when Amazon and B&N also have ebook readers for the iPad.

  4. Yes, high rates of growth can’t continue indefinitely. But I can’t see any way to look at the next five years and predict an average 32% growth rate per annum for ebook (i.e. just quadrupling in five years).

    My low-end prediction (ebooks sellling ten times as much in five years time) is ‘only’ 60% growth per year. That’s half the growth rate over the last couple of years, and as I said – ebook readers (the gadgets) are going to quickly get better and cheaper over the next five years, increasing the number of people who will want to buy ebooks

    The iPod debuted with a small B&W display and 5GB storage at $399. Five years later the iPod Video came with 30GB for $249, or there was the iPod Nano with 2GB for $149.

    The same sort of thing will happen with ebook readers.

  5. I agree that the estimate underestimates ebook reader growth ($99 readers are imminent and color isn’t that far behind) and overestimates Apple’s share a bit.

    30% must be including all non-iBook readers on iPhone and I’m sure a lot of iPhone readers should properly be tallied as Amazon, B&N, and Kobo customers rather than Apple customers for the purpose of *ebook* sales market share.

  6. My initial reaction is that they’re not only reading tea leaves, they’re smoking them.

    Let me in on the prediction game too! We know that ebook sales nearly quadrupled from Jan 2009 to Jan 2010. That growth mostly came from Amazon’s Kindle (B&N’s Nook was right at the tail end and probably didn’t contribute much). For 2010 we have a slew of new readers including the iPad. And even if Apple doesn’t grab a big share of ebook sales, that sexy gadget is going to raise awareness of ebooks tremendously.

    I think this is shaping up to be the Year of the Ebook. E-readers may just be the hot Christmas item this year. If that happens, Jan 2011 may show at least a five-fold increase of ebook sales over Jan 2010 (surely it’ll be even better than last year). That will push ebook market share into the 20%-25% range.

    That’s my prediction. I think it has a better chance of coming true than Goldman Sachs’.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail