Publishers Sleep Easy After Apple Textbook “Disruption”

January 19, 2012

At first I thought we should blame ourselves for getting our knickers all in a knot when the rumors started circulating that Steve Jobs’ deadly forces of disruption, honoring his dying wishes, had turned their sights on textbooks. But don’t we frighten easily!

Then I felt angry at Apple. (more…)

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EPUB 3 Changes the Game

May 23, 2011

I’m in New York at the sold out IDPF 2011 Digital Book conference run by the International Digital Publishing Forum. What a day it has been!

The big news of course is the “release”1of EPUB 3, the new version of the “ebook standard.”2 (more…)

  1. It’s actually the “Proposed Specification for final member and public review” — it’s been approved by the 100-member working committee, but now requires formal approval by all IDPF members. This is expected by end of summer. []
  2. It’s actually the e-publication standard as it could also be used for “magazines, newspapers and corporate documents.” As it is in fact used 99.9% of the time only for books I expect most will continue to call it the ebook standard. []

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Latest eBook Sales

December 15, 2009

The IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) has released its October sales figures and the records continue to be broken. As noted in an email to IDPF members:

eBook sales statistics for October 2009 have been released from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) who collects these statistics in conjunction with the IDPF. Trade eBook sales were $18,500,000 for October, a 254.3% increase over October 2008 ($5,200,000). Calendar year-to-date sales are up 180.7%.

And further:

October 2009 wholesale trade sales were $18,500,000 which is the highest single month thus far. July 2009 wholesale trade was the previous high at $16,200,000.

The association quietly once again reminds the curious that:

  • The data above represent United States revenues only
  • The data above represent only trade eBook sales via wholesale channels.  Retail numbers may be as much as double the above figures due to industry wholesale discounts.
  • The data above represent only data submitted from approx. 12 to 15 trade publishers
  • The data does not include library, educational or professional electronic sales
  • The numbers reflect the wholesale revenues of publishers

In other words, these numbers are probably understated if anything (provided you ignore the fact that Amazon apparently sells the bulk of its eBooks below wholesale cost).

Here’s the IDPF chart showing quarterly sales:


Your humble blogger notes that while these year-to-year increases are indeed impressive, the Association of American Publishers, while not yet announcing October sales, has released September’s figures: “Book sales tracked by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) for the month of September increased by 12.3 percent at $1.26 billion and were up by 3.6 percent for the year.” He would also note that while he cannot find the eBook sales number for September 2009, the statement above from IDPF indicates that it must have been below $16.2 million, claimed as the previous monthly high. As such, eBook sales in October were less than 1.3% of overall book sales (although there is no doubt some finagling to be done to balance retail and wholesale numbers).

We are once again reminded that there are lies and damned lies. And then there are statistics.

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The Best of Today’s E-Book Readers

November 6, 2009

So much easier to use the title of the article I’m blogging that to think up another title that says the same thing: “The Best of Today’s E-Book Readers” is the name of a brief, superficial and badly-researched article in PC World, published November 2nd.

I note it for two reasons. The first is that the author gives the top prize to SONY not Amazon. Related to this is that the prize is apparently awarded to SONY because of its support of the open ePub format, versus Amazon’s proprietary format. My comments about the article, also posted to the site:

I feel this is a very weak and badly-researched article. My reasons:

1. ePub is an open format of the IDPF. Adobe supports it, but it’s not “Adobe ePub.”

2. “Eliminating paper saves resources”: this is a VERY tired and largely inaccurate statement. It has emotional appeal: eBooks don’t kill trees. Many eBook enthusiasts naively argue that the carbon footprint of eBooks is negligible, while printed books are environmentally evil. This assessment is far too simplistic. The millions of servers utilized 24 hours a day by companies like Amazon and Google consume vast amounts of electricity. So too of course do computers, most of which are also left on around the clock. The consumer electronics industry operates on a planned obsolesce model. Hardware usually cannot be upgraded sufficiently to support new features; it must be replaced. While the computer industry is making sincere efforts to encourage recycling, according to the Electronics Takeback Coalition (, “only 13.6% of the consumer electronic products generated into the municipal waste stream [meaning, that people tossed out] were ‘recovered’ for recycling in 2007. This compares to the overall recovery rate of all categories of municipal waste (which) was 33.4% in 2007.” The same source quotes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that 41.1 million desktops & laptops were discarded in 2007 in the U.S. All of this coincides with a time when the forestry, papermaking and printing industries are making great strides in reducing their carbon footprint.

3. Finally, the reviewer does not appreciate just how venal was Amazon’s miserable attempt to dominate the marketplace with the aid of a non-standard digital format, AZW. Now that all of the important competitors do support the industry-standard ePub format, surely SONY deserves more than 2 bonus points for its ongoing ePub support.

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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!”


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.


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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