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.