(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:
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:
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:
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).