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E-book sales triple, top paper as most popular format in US

updated 06:40 pm EDT, Fri April 15, 2011

E-book sales triple in US, overtake paper

The Association of American Publishers said late Thursday that e-books had surged and established a foothold as the most popular format for reading in the US. Results from February saw e-book sales triple from just a year ago to $90.3 million. The jump made it the most popular format for books in the US, outpacing paper in every category the AAP covers.

CEO Tom Allen spun the surge as proof publishers were taking care of readers regardless of format. He also acknowledged that e-books were now "permanent additions" to readers' habits but argued there was still an interest in paper books.

Publishers have usually fought to gain or keep control over pricing and have been partly responsible for Apple and later Amazon adopting an agency model for pricing, where the retailer makes a fixed profit and publishers have at least some control over the price. In the UK, the model has triggered investigations over possible collusion on keeping prices high.

The shift still suggests the same digital shift in books as which happened for music and video. While companies like Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble have been successful, traditional book stores like Borders have declared bankruptcy or have been scrambling for a buyer to help them stay above water as their customers get e-books instead.

By Electronista Staff


  1. malax

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2006



    I find it hard to believe that ebooks outsold paper books, but apparently it's true.

    "Results from February saw e-book sales triple from just a year ago to $90.3 million. The jump made it the most popular format for books in the US, outpacing paper in every category the AAP covers."

    Apparently it's also true that books don't sell very much. This implies that the total annual book market is less than $2 billion dollars? Ok, I'm sure February is not a typical month for book sales, but still. ebook sales were $90 million and that exceeded paper books? So less than $180 million in books were sold in February?

    I suspect that's completely wrong, but I'm too lazy to do the research to figure out why.

  1. facebook_John

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Apr 2011


    Publish Digital First

    The evaporation of bookstores has caused publishers to pull back. Authors are increasingly marketing their own works, often self-publishing. The economics, and the time frames, of hard copy production make it far more attractive to get an ebook out on the market first.

    We've seen publishers repaying author advances out of digital sales in advance of the launch of the physical book. We've also seen a self-published author fund the his physical product.

    What's up in the air is how publishers can by-pass retailers and sell directly to their constituents.

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2004


    answer to malax

    According to the Association of American Publishers, American book sales were 11.67 billion in 2010.

    Worldwide book sales are over 100 billion.

    e-book sales over took trade-paperback sales, they did not overtake all "paper" sales. The article kind of reads that way, but they mean "ebook" as a category beats out, the individual categories they list for the various paper formats.

    The combined markets of hard-cover/paperback/mass market - still far exceeded e-book sales.

    Also, there is another category you didn't consider - audio books. They are on CD format, but still considered books, so its not just paper vs. ebook, but CD has significant book sales too.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    Completely mis-represented

    This is not what it implies. All eBooks did not outsell all other formats. It didn't even necessarily outsell any format.

    All this is saying is:

    eBooks: $90 million sales
    Adult hardcover: less
    Adult paperback: less
    Child hardcover: less

    Basically, they're taking ALL eBook sales (regardless of where the title might fall in the 'paper' world) and comparing that particular number to specific categories of paper books.

    So, if this 'statement' makes you think more people are buying Kindle versions of today's best sellers than the hard-cover version, you're misreading it (or, more pointedly, the report is poorly written to convey some greater meaning).

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