The Latest eBook Sales Stats

October 29, 2009

I’m duty-bound to provide you with the latest eBook sales statistics as dredged up by the the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). The organization doesn’t seem to want to crow about the numbers but Mike Shatzkin notes that “The IDPF just announced that year-over-year ebook sales for August are triple what they were a year ago!”

trade-stats_q209

As the following chart shows, “triple what they were a year ago” means $35 million+ versus $11 million+. Although Q1 ’09 was about 2.5 times Q1 ’08, let’s just assume that the whole of ’09 will be triple of all of ’08. That would suggest 2009 eBook sales of at least $150 million. No spare change, but as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, this remains little more than a rounding error for the book publishing industry as a whole, representing still less than 5% of anticipated 2009 total print sales.

idpf-sales-chart

Yes, eBooks sales are growing quickly, as are the sales of organic produce. According to the 2009 Organic Trade Association Survey, organic produce sales rose by a “whopping” 17.1% in 2008. As a result “organic food sales now account for approximately 3.5% of all food product sales in the US…”

Let see when Spelt Flakes put Cheerios out of business, and when eBooks kill the printed book business.

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The Top Ten Blogs on the Future of Books, Media and Publishing

Eoin Purcell has an excellent blog on publishing, and one of his very useful entries is called “The Top Ten Blogs on the future of books, media and publishing.” Though it’s going on three years old, all are still active and valuable.

I list a selection of my favorites here: http://thefutureofpublishing.com/pages/Friends.html

I’ll keep adding to it: there’s so much great information out there (if you can only find the time to read it all).

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A VERY Strong Quarter From Amazon; Kindle Sales Still a Mystery

October 23, 2009

My colleague Mark Anderson calls the company “Amazin’” and I often think he’s calling it straight. The company yesterday announced its third-quarter results, and financially, they’re stupendous:

  • Net sales increased 28% to $5.45 billion in the third quarter, compared with $4.26 billion in third quarter 2008.
  • Net income increased 68% to $199 million in the third quarter compared with net income of $118 million in third quarter 2008.

But, most remarkably, according to Bezos:

“Kindle has become the #1 bestselling item by both unit sales and dollars – not just in our electronics store but across all product categories on Amazon.com….”

Here we have another one of Bezos’s media-focused statements offered once again without a hint of what those unit sales or dollars are. So Amazon issues yet another hyperbolic claim so ambiguous in meaning that it’s designed presumably just to feed the Kindle hype machine. (Of course many analysts eat the hype without even adding cream or sugar.)

Is Bezos claiming that on a day-to-day basis, the Kindle has become the #1 bestselling item by both unit sales and dollars? Or is this for some other period of time? Could he mean that it is the all-time #1 Amazon bestselling item by both unit sales and dollars?

I just can’t believe in any of these scenarios. Think of the Harry Potter and the Dan Brown books. Surely their unit sales have been much higher than Kindle sales overall? With just the Dan Brown books having sold perhaps 5 million+ copies on Amazon, the “all-time” scenario quickly falls apart. And for a book that sold a million copies on its first day of release, Brown’s latest, “The Lost Symbol”, selling at $16.47 in hardcover on Amazon, surely is outpacing the $259 Kindle in daily unit sales.

I’m not the only one perplexed by this. See for example:

How Long Will Amazon’s Silence On Kindle Sales Last?

I have nothing but the greatest respect for Bezos’ stupendous business achievements with Amazon.com. But I will continue to cast a wary eye on the Kindle and eBooks generally while Bezos continues to insult all of his customers and followers by playing so coyly with the real Kindle story. I think that this kind of non-disclosure should be forbidden by the SEC (meaning, very specifically, that if a publicly-traded firm is going to point to a particular product as one of the cornerstones of its success, it MUST release the relevant associated financial data).

Bezos continues to insult us all with the tale of the Kindle. Perhaps it will read better as an eBook.

An update on  October 29, 2009: A Wall Street Journal posting reveals part of the reason of the success from Amazon’s amazing quarter.

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Instant eBook Promotion: Try These Snappy Phrases on the Nay-Sayers

October 22, 2009

Having trouble convincing people to toss their Penguin paperbacks in the garbage and buy a Kindle? I know I sure am. Well Steve Jordan, the prolific author of Encephalopath, apparently a successful self-published eBook author offers, “Instant eBook Promotion: Try These Snappy Phrases on the Nay-Sayers”:

“The book of the 21st century is digital.”
“E-books are distilled writing.”
“Darwin would read e-books.”
“We need trees more than we need paper.”
“Print is static. E-books can be customized.”
“An e-book will never end up in a landfill.”
“I’ve got a roomful of books in my pocket.”
“If you can look at a computer all day, you can read an e-book.”
“E-books: The literature without the pulp.”
“You get used to… what you want to get used to.” —Jordan’s Theorem

An e-book will never end up in a landfill, but you can be sure that quite a few eBook readers will.

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Americans Reject Tailored Advertising

October 8, 2009

A very important report was officially released Wednesday by the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (in conjunction with the Social Science Research Network (SSRN)). Titled “Americans Reject Tailored Advertising,” the report appears to change the rules of the online advertising game.

The report has five co-authors, led by the well-respected Joseph Turow of the Annenberg School for Communication.

The overview succinctly states:

Contrary to what many marketers claim, most adult Americans (66%) do not want marketers to tailor advertisements to their interests. Moreover, when Americans are informed of three common ways that marketers gather data about people in order to tailor ads, even higher percentages—between 73% and 86%–say they would not want such advertising….

The survey uncovered other attitudes by Americans toward tailored content and the collection of information about them. For example:

• Even when they are told that the act of following them on websites will take place anonymously, Americans’ aversion to it remains: 68% “definitely” would not allow it, and 19% would “probably” not allow it.
• A majority of Americans also does not want discounts or news fashioned specifically for them, though the percentages are smaller than the proportion rejecting ads.
• 69% of American adults feel there should be a law that gives people the right to know everything that a website knows about them.
• 92% agree there should be a law that requires “websites and advertising companies to delete all stored information about an individual, if requested to do so.”
• 63% believe advertisers should be required by law to immediately delete information about their internet activity.

The report is authoritative and easily digested. It is a must-read for all concerned about the future of publishing and the role that advertising plays within. The implications of the report are featured in my study on Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture, to be released October 12th.

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