eBook Sales Surpass Hardcover

Well that didn’t take long:

American publishers are now bringing in more revenue from ebooks than hardcover books, according to a report published by the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

The figures, which were posted on GalleyCat on Friday, show that net sales revenue from ebooks exceeded that of hardcover books in the first quarter of the year. The data was compiled from 1,189 publishers and did not include children’s books.

Collectively, adult ebooks brought in $282.3 million in Q1. That’s an impressive 28.4% increase from the same period a year ago. Young adult and children’s ebooks performed even better, catapulting 233% to $64.3 million. Sales of adult hardcover books grew too, but more modestly, up 2.7% to $229.6 million in Q1 2012.

What’s driving the growth? The proliferation of ereading devices, from tablets and smartphones to dedicated ereaders, has a lot to do with it. Research published by Pew in April found a strong correlation between the spike in sales of ereading-capable devices and ebook adoption over the holidays.

Paperback sales continue to lead, bringing in $299.8 million in revenue in the first quarter of the year, but appear to be on the decline. (In fact, ebook sales surpassed paperback sales more than a year-and-a-half ago on Amazon.) Last year, net sales revenue for paperbacks amounted to $335 million.

Notably, downloadable audiobooks grew at an even greater rate than ebooks in that period, up 32.7% to $25 million in the first part of the year.

We’re curious: How have your book consumption habits shifted over the past few years? Are you buying more ebooks or audiobooks and, if so, are you buying less hardcovers and paperbacks as a result?

If anybody in the publishing world is surprised by this, then they need to really not be in the publishing world any more. There are plenty of top flight jobs in either the food service or house-keeping industries for people with their qualifications.

Passing hardcover sales is a meaningful milestone, but passing paperback numbers will be more significant. Paper is dying. I don’t like it. I don’t believe it will ever go away completely. But the inevitability of it all has been blindingly obvious since Egon observed that “print is dead” in Ghostbusters in 1984.

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Ron19

    I started to read ebooks (Kindle) for a reason that didn’t work out, but continued because of the low cost (now not so low) and to stop adding to the book clutter in my home. I now have hundreds of books that are not overflowing the premises. I still buy print books mostly because a title I want is not available in ebook form, or because of illustrations.

    I usually have a short attention span when reading, and often stop reading one book temporarily by switching to my place in another book I’m working on. Having a hundred samples, unread books, and works-in-progress in my hand is a gift from God.

    One of my concerns now is how do I pass them on to my children after I die, not before.

    The sampling feature is great. The sample is sometimes insufficient to make a decision on, but it’s usually useful for making the decision. There are books I haven’t bought, and books I would not have bought, because of it.

    Overall, for me, this has been progress that enriches my life.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    I agree. I like the samples, the instant access, and the portability of a large library. (It’s great for travel.) I’m using it a bit for graduate school, and finding it mostly effective because it allows me to clip and quote quite easily. I can create digest-sized versions of citations with very little effort. I’m not sure I’ll ever get past the loss of the tactile element, but I understand that’s just my age and my conditioning. Another generation won’t have those issues as much.

  • http://ebookisbetter.ru/ ebookisbetter

    I also love to read e-books, but still a classic paper book gives more Occupational. I would say that the paper book has a kind of spiritual energy.


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