Lies, damned lies… and eBook statistics

If publishers, authors, and retailers can agree on any single issue when it comes to the constantly evolving digital content world – it’s that we need better, reliable sales statistics for eBook sales.  All major stakeholders in the eBook value chain seem to express the same frustration when it comes to having a clear picture of what is really happening in the current market. 

In Australia, traditional book sales have been captured well for the past 11 years by the Nielsen Bookscan system – but there is currently no digital equivalent.  Digital sales, by their very nature, are a direct relationship between the content owner and the retailer and it seems that everyone is holding their cards close to their chests.  This issue was well covered by Bite the Book in their recent post, Show Me the Data! Where are the eBook Stats?  The following quote from that article sums up the situation quite well, “I recall at one point last year someone added up all the eBook market share claims that were made and it worked out that Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Google accounted for 130% of the eBook market!”

Currently all we can do is get glimpses into the market from the publicly available numbers we do have access to.  Paidcontent.org recently put together a great summary table comparing various publishers’ digital revenues.  Even though the list was restricted to the big international players, it nevertheless makes for some interesting reading.  For years we have heard that despite the hype, digital publishing only ever represented a tiny fraction of overall revenue in the major publishing houses.  This is clearly no longer the case with many of the majors now reporting digital revenues for trade in the range of 15% to -20% of total sales.

Whilst this high level data is useful, and shows us that eBooks are becoming financially viable (at least for the big guys), it does not give us the answers to the questions we really want to know.  For example, how much of that 15% to 20% comes from Amazon?  What price points are the majority of the profits coming from?  Where are the growth areas, and are any areas in decline?  What titles or genres make the biggest contribution to the bottom line?  Etc, etc, etc.

If you have any useful eBook statistics that you have come across, or would like to share your personal experiences, please comment below.  We’d also love to hear suggestions on what could be done to improve the reporting of eBook sales for the Australian market.

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