As usual, our users are ahead of us. While we’ve been debating and cogitating on the future of e-books, they’ve gone mainstream.
According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), sales of e-books grew 173% year-to-year for January 2008-2009.
Annualized, this means e-books are tracking to surpass $100 million in sales in 2009.
According to an excellent analysis at Publetariat, this is overly conservative because it’s a linear extrapolation of January’s number. There is a strong growth rate to account for. Once you do this, even cautiously, you see that e-books are charting a course for $150 million year in sales.
Most importantly, these are titles that are actually sold, not consignment copies subject to returns and warehousing and sitting on shelves in bookstores. That makes a big difference in revenue terms — e-books provide a much better cash flow.
Also, with the rapid proliferation of smartphones and e-book readers, there is an ecosystem to support e-books unlike any we’ve ever seen before.
So, even though they only account for 6% of the total publishing industry, e-books might hit their stride in 2009. Publishers seeking efficiency, audience, and cash on the barrel head should do more than just pay attention.