Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Understanding E-book Sales Trends

Very interesting article by Erik Sherman April 25 on e-book business trends in which he concludes that " E-books may actually be growing at a far faster rate than even those who are bullish on the subject think."

Sherman's breakdown of the available data reveals that it is woefully inadequate: it quickly becomes obvious that methods and databases established to track traditional book sales are based on assumptions that no longer apply. For example, AAP represents the 300 top American publishers, so it used to be the database to analyze -- but only 16 of those 300 members are reporting their ebook sales to AAP, so those figures are clearly a completely inaccurate representation of even trends within the AAP-- even if the AAP members were still relevant for ebook sales which they may well not be! Given that the whole point of the emergent ebook tech is that one can go to press without a publisher, analyzing ebook sales from legacy publishers may be missing the boat. Given the hundreds (thousands maybe?) of small presses springing up in response to the new POD and ebook technologies (and in response to the legacy publishers increasing tendency to 'play it safe' by publishing only mainstream, lowest common denominator, processed cheese product) many of whom have been selling quite well on the ebook market, it may well be that self-publisehed authosr and 'small' presses have a significantly -- but completely unreported - larger share of the ebook market than AAP members.

Sherman also points out that even if one accepted the currently available indicators, inadequate as they are, they often compare apples and oranges -- when someone says ebooks sales are up x%, are they talking $ figures or numbers of titles sold. Because comparing $ figures between a $2.99 ebook and the same book in paper for $22.99 may seriously misrepresents the comparison if we are talking # of copies sold. The more one looks at the numbers the more confusing, or ludicrous, it becomes.

(See also Flying under the radar)

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