Adult fiction ebooks outsold hardcovers in 2011-survey

NEW YORK, July 18 Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:49pm EDT

NEW YORK, July 18 (Reuters) - Electronic books more than doubled in popularity in 2011, with ebooks outselling hardcover books in adult fiction for the first time, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

Net sales of e-books jumped to 15 percent of the market in 2011 from 6 percent in 2010, according to a report by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. The groups compiled data provided by nearly 2,000 publishers.

Total overall U.S. book market sales declined 2.5 percent to $27.2 billion in 2011 from $27.9 billion in 2010, the report said.

While ebooks increased in strength, bringing in more than $2 billion in 2011, the majority of publishers' revenue still came from print books, with $11.1 billion in 2011.

"We're delighted to see it (the report) affirm that the industry has remained steady, and has even grown in some areas, in what continues to be a challenging economic time and through such significant transformation," said Len Vlahos, executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, in an email.

The publishing industry has been more upbeat recently about the growth of ebooks, but the industry has been fearful over the impact of Borders, once the second largest U.S. book retailer, liquidating its 40-year-old business in September, as well as the U.S. Justice Department suing Apple Inc and major book publishers in April over fixing ebook prices.

Ebooks have been growing in popularity for the past several years, even after major publishers were initially slow to embrace digital formats.

According to the report, in the adult fiction category, e-books accounted for 30 percent of total net publisher sales compared to a 13 percent share the year before.

Adult fiction ebooks beat hardcovers for the first time, however the combined print formats including hardcover, trade paperback and mass market paperback still had more revenue than ebooks.

"Ebooks have demonstrated unprecedented acceptance among readers but the various print formats remain dynamic as well, showing that consumers want options," Vlahos said.

Blockbusters such as "The Hunger Games" helped the Children's Young Adult category increase 12 percent to a total of $2.8 billion, while religious books rebounded after a decline in 2009.

And, as traditional major publishers such as the privately-held Macmillan Group fret over the strength of online retailer and publisher Amazon Inc, the report found that brick-and-mortar retail was still the biggest sales channel for publishers, representing 31.5 percent of total net dollars. However that was down 12.6 percent from 2010.

As a comparison, online retailers represented 13 percent of total net dollars, but grew 35 percent from the year before.

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Comments (6)
MrCrashHappy wrote:
The key factor is monetary. Ebooks generate a fraction of the cash of print. However, the overhead for ebooks is a fraction of that of print. The antique system of agents and publishers is still dedicated to the “names” and “recognizability.” New talent are left foundering, despite generating content which is new and different, because the establishment is stupidly bound to cash cow concepts. In the end, the lack of sales reps willing to push new content and the ever-shrinking number of retail venues means that ebooks will continue to attract because publishers don’t have the sense to create products that will sell to broader audiences. For the foreseeable future SF and fantasy will be dominated by PC and gratuitous sex instead of literary value.

Jul 18, 2012 10:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Olinser wrote:
Ok, so they outsell hardcovers. I personally almost NEVER buy hardcover, I can wait a few months for it to go to paperback and 1/4 of the cost. Why on earth would I buy a hardcover for $25-30 when an e-book or paperback is $8-12? It’s the same story.

As for MrCrashHappy’s inane comment, ‘new and different’ does NOT mean profitable. Of course a publisher isn’t going to take a risk and print 4 million copies of an unknown author! There are literally thousands of authors that write online that will never be published – because they simply aren’t popular enough for people to buy their stories.

And e-books replacing print is still a LONG way off – E-books barely made up 15% of total book sales for this past year. The key factor is that honestly few people possess an e-book reader, and the cost is high enough that a large amount of people will not invest in one until the price comes way down. Why should I pay $80 for a Kindle, and then pay the same price for a book as I would for a paperback anyway? I could buy 10 more books with that money!

Jul 19, 2012 10:09am EDT  --  Report as abuse
InAllHonesty wrote:
Print books will never vanish, but ebooks are the read of the future, if not the present.

Now if someone can only figure out a way to stop the thieving pirates from stealing authors’ books and giving/sharing/selling ebooks without giving due payment to the authors. Theft is theft, and these freebie/cheapie pirates should be stopped and jailed.

Jul 19, 2012 10:27am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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