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Sourcebooks NEXT.

(This post is based on 3 of the slides from a presentation I recently gave at O’Reilly's “Tools of Change in Publishing” conference. We'll be posting all of the presentation there shortly.)

Throughout 2010 it was clear that ebooks were growing in popularity. By the end of September 2010, the below chart shows the sales history for ebooks (in dollars) we were looking at here across all of Sourcebooks:

ebook sales oct 2009 thru sept 2010

As you can see (and this is Sourcebooks data only) ebooks were growing pretty steadily every month. We all knew the holiday season would propel this upswing further. People would be given empty devices as gifts for the holidays and they'd begin filling them, so I expected to see December and January ebook numbers that were a significant increase. But would the upswing be a nice new plateau or would it suggest a legitimate "tip"? Well, take a look:

ebook sales 2010

That's an extraordinary increase in just two months. Current ebook sales put all the previous sales figures into striking perspective – what we believed was remarkable growth for all of 2010 was nothing in comparison to what was actually possible. And (as people who are familiar with what we've been doing at Sourcebooks know) we've done a tremendous amount of work to obtain these results.

Particularly striking is that:

sourcebooks ebook sales

It's obviously too early to tell but if the December 2010 and January 2011 numbers hold their level, it seems clear that this may well be a much faster transformation than we anticipated.

At Digital Book World - only a month ago - there seemed to be consensus that the ebook tipping point would occur around 2014. That seems too slow to me now. Based on what we're seeing in our current data, I think we may well be at the tipping point and that certainly has a lot of implications. I suspect that we're going to see some dramatic reassessment when publishers look at their numbers at the end of first quarter, 2011. And for certain types of books, ebook units this year may be more than 50% of units sold (but more on that in a future Sourcebooks Next post).



+2 # Karl J Niemiec 2011-02-23 09:38
Good news for LapTopPublishin g.com and independent publisher/authors like us. It's time.
Karl J. Niemiec
+2 # David H. Burton 2011-02-23 09:47
Wow! Great post!! The e-pocalypse is imminent. ;)
-1 # Caridad Pineiro 2011-02-23 10:19
Interesting stats. I truly think that it's impossible to ignore that more and more people are using readers, but I suspect that many of those will still buy print books as well. A recent Rasmussen poll indicated that most Americans still prefer books in print.
-2 # Debra Salonen 2011-02-24 10:11
@Caridad, I gave a talk to a group of university women last night and for that age group (late 40s to retired) the consensus was: "They'll have to pry my dead-tree book from my cold, dead fingers." But those who expressed some interest (resignation, perhaps) about ebooks agreed with you--that they'd buy print books along side ebooks.
-2 # Dominique 2011-02-24 21:22
Thanks for your comments!

Really interesting. I've been showing BISG (Book Industry Study Group)data that shows that seems to indicate that the heaviest readers are converting first. And there seemed to be data to indicate that heavy readers were boomers. I think there's age data in the BISG study. I'll see if we can post some of that here.
-2 # Debra Salonen 2011-02-24 21:47
I'd be interested in seeing the breakdown. A couple of interesting comments last night involved what these ladies saw as a loss of community--that is being able to go to their favorite bookstore and browse. The act of physically handing books has been a huge part of their lives--from first library visit to sipping lattes in Borders.
-2 # Marleen Gagnon 2011-02-25 18:48
I don't think print books will ever go away, but I do think as a writer in order to survive the industry must embrace technology. That technology must be made available to the ordinary consumer at an affordable price. Imagine what would have happened if the economy hadn't gone bust?
-2 # Peter 2011-03-15 08:03

This is off topic- but I couldn't think of anywhere else on the site to ask.

You are based in Naperville, right?
Does the new Amazon.com tax impact - and deleting of affiliate links- impact sourcebooks at all?

I grew up in Naperville, so I would hope there isn't any temptation to leave!
-2 # Dominique 2011-03-29 13:45

Yes, we're based in Naperville. I think the tax issue is very real. It's not a problem for us. Apparently will be a problem for lots of others. It's looking to me like this is going to become a very big (national) subject of conversation.


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