JK Rowling’s announcement that she is self-publishing the Harry Potter e-books pretty much drowned everything else out yesterday, but there was some other news that should be highlighted.
The American Association of Publishers (AAP) released figures for April 2011. Adult Hardback was in first position again this month, with $111.4m in sales (a sharp drop of over 20% from $142.9m in April 2010).
Adult trade paperback was in second position again this month with $95.9m (down from $128.2m or a drop of 25%). Ebooks held steady in third position with $72.8m (an increase of 165% on last year’s $27.4m).
Adult mass market paperback is again in the doldrums this month with $28.5m (a collapse of 42% from $49.1m).
The overall picture is quite clear. E-books continue their surge, but adult mass market paperback is in freefall, and the rest of the print categories don’t look too healthy either. Remember, these are year-on-year comparisons above which should filter out any seasonal variance.
Speaking of which, another pattern is emerging which I have hinted at before. Many products are seasonal for one reason or another. For print books, the period in the run-up to Christmas was always the busiest time of year.
However, with e-books we are seeing a slightly different pattern emerging – at least at this early stage in the market. The busy period seems to begin in October with the launch of all the latest e-readers, and builds up throughout the run-up to the holidays with all the major new releases, culminating in an explosion in December which carries right through to February as first-time entrants into the market (those that purchased or were gifted e-readers) load up their devices.
Naturally, if you have a peak, you will have a trough, and summer appears to be that for e-books. It makes sense. When the market is this young, figures will be skewed by new entrants who are attracted by new e-readers and lower prices (as each model comes out).
Looking ahead, this will only continue until all those who are going to switch to e-books do switch to e-books, and then I expect the matured e-book market to resemble more closely the seasonality of print books where major releases are geared towards the run-up to the holidays.
As for bookstores, the hurt just continues. Borders future will be decided next month. Whatever emerges (if anything does) will not be the bookselling force of the past.
Barnes & Noble are only showing growth online, and in non-book store products. More and more bookshelves are being taken out for Nook display areas and toys and games. Less shelf space means more midlisters in the warehouse, or never ordered to begin with.
This leads to lower print runs, which increases printing costs, which increases book prices, which sends more people online for discounts, or encourages them to switch to e-books, which leads to lower bookstore sales of books, which leads to… you get the idea.
This is a death spiral for print. It’s not going to be pretty.
I would just like to give a quick thank you for another very nice review, this time of Transfection. It’s very much appreciated.