U.S. 2007 wholesale e-book sales: $31.7M, or 23.6 percent over 2006—but should they have been still higher?

U.S. 2007 wholesale e-book sales: $31.7M, or 23.6 percent over 2006—but should they have been still higher?

Vía Teleread

American e-book sales in 2007, by “12-15 trade publishers,” jumped to $31.7 million or 23.6 percent higher than in 2006. Click on the image for a more detailed view.

The wholesale numbers are from the International Digital Publishing Forum, which participates in a statistics program with the Association of American Publishers. An IDPF letter to members used the phrase “year to date,” but I’d assume the $31.7 million is a complete annual figure. See the IDPF’s Web site for details.

Just part of the U.S. and global e-book industries

Remember, this is just part of the e-book industry (no “library, educational or professional electronic sales”) and that the retail figure might actually be in the $60 million range. With all factors plugged for the 12-15 publishers, I suspect retail sales might be well past $80 million—still just a fraction of the tens of billions of dollars spent on paper books, but some progress just the same, especially if you toss in numbers from small houses not in the survey.

The U.S. retail total for houses of all sizes—and this is just speculation—could exceed $100 million. The global retail total is most likely in excess of $350 million if you consider past numbers from Japan and Korea and allow for other countries.

The Kindle question

No, it’s still too early to determine the extent to which Amazon’s Kindle will boost sales in the U.S. and elsewhere. Significantly, the Kindle didn’t go on sale until November 2007. Oh, to find out what the Kindle will do once enough units are out there for e-book sales stats to be meaningful. Remember, the selection of Kindle books is now much larger than for the Sony, and the K-machine lets consumers download books via wireless, which many shoppers will see as much simpler than the Sony’s procedure. The Kindle made the cover of Newsweek, however, and the publicity should have revved up e-book sales in general. But you never know.

The Sony mystery

The Sony reader should have benefited from the Kindle publicity—we’ll see. Meanwhile I remain curious why the Reader, which came out in late 2006, didn’t bump up the e-book business in 2007 more than it actually did. A 23.6 percent increase is nothing to sneer at, but with the Sony in the equation, it should have been bigger. To a great extent, is the Sony just stealing away business from PDAs and other alternative platforms, meaning that the total market isn’t growing as rapidly as we might expect? Keep in mind that Sony’s e-store has played up books from major publishers, the very kind most likely to send in stats to the AAP-IDPF collection effort. I’d welcome thoughts from Sony.

Additional info from the IDPF: “This data does not include library, educational or professional electronic sales…The definition used for reporting electronic book sales is ‘All books delivered electronically over the Internet OR to hand-held reading devices.’”

Related: Slow e-book rev growth reported by the IDPF in the first three quarters of ‘07—but let’s think long term and also put these iffy numbers in context, an earlier TeleBlog item. Remember, that observation included only growth within the year 2007. The fourth quarter of 2007, moreover, just as in previous years, made a difference—$8.2M compared to ’06’s $7M.

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