Under the Covers: EBooks

With all the buzz about Digital Rights Management lately, we thought it would be helpful to provide a snapshot of the current market for eBooks to show why so many people care so much about the issue. In short, eBook sales have taken off like a rocket in the last few years and look to climb even higher.

Sci-Fi author David Derrico keeps tabs on the Association of American Publishers’ (AAP) sales numbers, which report sales from close to 1,200 publishers. His most recent blog posts post some pretty impressive figures: eBook sales from February 2012 hit nearly $115 million, which equated to 19.9% of all book sales. January’s sales hit nearly $129 million—26.7% of all book sales that month!

Compare that to where eBooks were just a few short years ago. In August of 2011, the AAP released their BookStats report, which compiled statistical data for 2008–2010. The full report is available for purchase, but the Formats highlights make the case clear enough: “e-books have grown from 0.6% of the total Trade market share in 2008 to 6.4% in 2010. While that represents a small amount in the total market for formats, it translates to 1274.1% in publisher net sales revenue year-over-year with total net revenue for 2010 at $878 Million.”

As you’ve already seen, 2011 saw even more growth. More and more people are embracing eBooks. The growing market for digital books is one that authors cannot afford to ignore. And it seems that growing numbers of authors are realizing that. Mark Coker, CEO of eBook publisher Smashwords, reports (in the presentation embedded in his April 25 blog) that Smashwords published 92,000 eBooks in 2011, compared to just 28,800 in 2010.

It’s clear that we are seeing a fundamental shift in the definition of a published book. Most authors see the value in adding an eBook to their printed works. Some authors are forgoing printed books entirely. A bare few are still clinging to the belief that eBooks are a passing fad, but now you have the information to correct them.

While eBooks are certainly here to stay, it’s also safe to say that their form will evolve. Improvements in technology are already making them more interactive, and readers are craving even more. With all this potential, we may see the definition of eBook change in the coming years just as much as the definition of book already has.

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