It’s no secret that churn has hit the book space, and it appears a wholesale transition is underway.
The Association of American Publishers reported recently that book sales were down 21% in September 2010 compared to a year before. Overall, book sales are up 3.8% for 2010, but this number keeps whittling lower as the year goes on. Most of the overall growth has come from sale of e-books, which were up 158% for September (2010 vs. 2009) and a total of 188% for 2010 overall compared to the year before.
Downloaded audio books also saw an increase of 73.7% year over year in September. The category is up 34.1% for the year.
The move from print books to digital books is accelerating — portable reading and listening devices are drawing readers from print, which was once the only viable portable and personal option for long-form works.
The only category that was up appreciably aside from e-books was higher education books, which have posted an overall increase in sales of 10.6% for the year. As an earlier post here discussed, this isn’t surprising given the moat protecting print in this market segment.
In response to these anticipated changes, the New York Times recently announced it will begin to include a list of e-book bestsellers among its bestseller lists. According to the announcement, the Times has spent two years creating the system that will measure e-book sales. It’s a natural move, and reminiscent of the changes in music bestseller lists, which went from fixed media sales to downloads over a period of a few years, and now is predicated more at the song level than the album level. (Will Amazon’s shared highlighting from the Kindle and similar things become the book equivalent of songs someday? Is that another list the Times might someday assemble?)
The move from printed books to e-books has accelerated, and seems unlikely to stop anytime soon.