During the early days of the pandemic, US book sales were going through the roof, and everyone thought that the format was going to make a comeback. In 2021, things started out just fine, but starting in the Spring, things have been in a constant state of decline. In the first ten months, ebook revenues were down 5.6% as compared to the first ten months of 2020. Year to date, US ebook revenue is $892.5 million.
I was hoping that in the 4th quarter of the year, people would start embracing buying ebooks again, as many people have bought one of the new e-readers that came out from companies such as Amazon, Kobo, or an Onyx Boox. Sadly, this is not the case. October, ebook sales were down 12.3% for the month as compared to October of 2020 and generated $84.0 million.
One of the saving graces of the digital publishing industry are audiobooks. The industry is consolidating right now, Spotify bought the audiobook distributor Findaway and Audiobooks.com was sold to Storytel. Digital book sales might be falling by double digits on a monthly basis, but audiobook sales are booming. In the first 10 months of 2021, audiobook sales were up 14.2%, coming in at $632.0 million in revenue. October audiobook sales were also very strong, generating $62.7 million.
There is only a $200 million dollar difference between audiobook sales and ebook sales. I believe that within the next two years, audiobooks will surpass ebooks. Audiobooks are more portable, people can listen to them while walking the dog, jogging, commuting to work or on public transit. I think one of the driving factors, is people tend to listen to the same music all the of the time and things start to get stale, audiobooks keep things fresh.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.