Nielsen is one of the only companies in the United States that tracks the publishing industry. They keep tabs on what books are selling in bookstores and monitor e-book sales through multiple retail channels. The company has just posted their year in review and it basically summarizes that e-book sales are down, while print is up.
Traditional print books increased almost 3%, while sales of e-books dipped. As a result, e-books’ share of the total market slipped from 27% in 2014 to 24% last year.
Despite the slight shift in total e-book sales, one channel within the digital space saw significant growth: smartphones. In fact, e-book consumption via smartphone grew from 7.6% in 2014 to 14.3% in 2015, which is yet another signal of how ubiquitous our handheld best friends have become.
In looking at category trends, non-fiction was the highlight of 2015, with 12% growth in children’s non-fiction and 7% growth in adult non-fiction. On the fiction front, the big gainers were science fiction (44%), classics (32%) and graphic novels (22%). Adult coloring books also had a breakout year, with an estimated 12 million copies sold in 2015, compared with 1 million in 2014.
One of the most interesting aspects of the 19 page report are the devices that people use to read e-books. It is very apparent that the vast majority of e-book readers employ the Amazon Kindle, Fire Tablet and iPad. To a lesser degree they read novels on their smartphone, nook e-reader and desktop.
The other aspect of the report that I found interesting was how e-book prices have been fairly stable in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 they increased due to major publishers renegotiating their contracts with Amazon and having more control over the price. This resulted in a decrease in e-book sales, while indie authors picked up the slack and started to sell cheaper books. The graph above shows that indie authors pricing strategy has remained consistent since 2013.
What the graph does not show us, is how e-book sales by major publishers are starting to rebound in 2016. In 2016 the average price of a Big Five e-book dropped from $10.31 in January 2016 to $8.67 in May 2016.
I suggest downloading and reading the full Nielsen report, you can access it right now from Good e-Reader.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.