Ebooks Growth is Up, Both Traditional and Self-Published

In book news, a recent report shows that book publishers received nearly 23% of their revenues from sales of ebooks (versus paper books) during 2012.  That’s up from 17% the year before.  That comes from full-year data by the Association of American Publishers (AAP).  The AAP  includes 350 publishers, including large ones such as Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Harper Collins, as well as independents like Sourcebooks.

eBooks growth

Self-published ebooks growth is strong

The above numbers would not include self-published ebooks.  For that data, look to Bowker research.  According to a study released last October, the number of self-published books produced annually in the U.S. has nearly tripled, growing 287% since 2006.  As between print and electronic, self-published ebooks had the strongest percentage growth.

One thing we have noticed from the Small Business Book Awards is the fast-growing number of ebook-only submissions of business books.  Many are self-published using one of the many new-form publishing platforms such as Smashwords and CreateSpace.

People still read print, but ebooks growth hard to ignore

According to the APP survey, overall book sales (print and electronic) for 2012 are up over 6%.

What you can take from this is that despite predictions of the death of books in the Internet age, books are still much in demand — both print and ebooks.

However, according to a Pew Internet study from December, ebook reading is increasing while print-book reading is declining.  And it’s no wonder, given the advantages of ebooks.  You don’t have to have shelf space to store electronic books as you do with paper books.  It’s fast and easy to buy ebooks – a purchase can be done from the comfort of your home or office in minutes, rather than hours or days to buy/order print books.  Ebooks often provide a richer experience, in the sense of being able to provide you with direct links to electronic resources, better searchability and annotation features, and links to dictionaries and Wikipedia to look things up.   And in many cases, the ebook version is cheaper.

Today, though, ebooks’ growth is still hindered by the “walled garden” aspect of many ebook readers.  It’s difficult — in some cases impossible — to transfer electronic books purchased in one place, into an ebook reader of another retailer.  Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Google Books reader — all are set up to make it easy to purchase and read books from THEIR stores, but not from others.   Each retailer wants 100% of your book-buying purchases. They don’t want to encourage  you to purchase just anywhere.  Some determined book lovers do manage to transfer ebooks across some device/app platforms.  But it still takes extra steps and sometimes requires special conversion software or syncing.

In the end, however, consumers will vote with their wallets.  They are already doing that according to Bowker.  Consumers are showing a growing interest in reading with multi-purpose tablets, versus dedicated e-reader devices.

eBook Photo via Shutterstock


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

12 Reactions
  1. Funny, you list it as an advantage to not need space to store an e-book… I think that is why I still buy regular books. Because I get just as much joy out of seeing the books that I have read on my shelf, as I do from reading them. Seeing the books on the shelf is a memory kickstart. A way to remember the adventures that book brought. I still buy e-books for some things, but if I think I will really enjoy the book, I go and buy it in Hardcover.

  2. I can’t help but feel sad for the decline of print books. I always hoped they’d remain strong in sales but that’s just not going to be the case. Then in a hundred years children will ask “books were made out of WHAT?”

  3. I was one of those people who swore she’d never convert to digital books (bah!). I still love paper, but there’s something about instant gratification. And self-published ebooks don’t have the stigma they used to. Now my only complaint is that the digital versions cost nearly as much as the paper ones!

  4. I see hardened technophobes such as my wife now buying Kindles, the rise of ebooks seems to be an irresistable process. However I do think there will always be place for printed books, the bookshelf is not quite the same with an electronic reader parked in it! We have some wonderful art books, these can only be done justice in arge printed form.

  5. I will always buy paper. Just moved and there’s nothing like unpacking your books and arranging them on the shelves. One upside of ebooks? Everyone dumping paper…went to the local thrift store and picked up eight pristine hardbacks from my favorite author for just $4 a piece.

  6. Having more people reading regardless of the platform is a good thing. Print book sales in the total Trade Book segment is still a 5.5 billion dollar business and is not going away any time soon. You may have certain products disappear like Mass Market Paperbacks but Printed book products have been disappearing for years based on the end users needs. (Does anyone remember encyclopedias?) and the print business has continued to thrive.
    The growth rate of both eReades and eBooks is slowing and 2013 may be the first time we have an idea of the actual run rate of eBooks. You will get a stabilization of mix here pretty quick as the two camps align with their preferred form of reading consumption. Either way it is good news for Publishing as readers are not going away and in fact may be returning.

    John Conley
    Vice President Publishing Xerox Corporation

  7. I’ve always been a bibliophile, but must admit that I have joined in to the e-book craze and have bought an e-reader. I do like the convenience of it (I travel a lot and can carry hundreds of pounds worth of books with me). I do still prefer holding a real book in my hands though. I find it much easier to page back and forth, and refer to other parts of the text when I need to.