Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ebook Market Exploding, Says New IDPF Survey

The ebook market is growing faster as it grows larger.

The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) on Friday reported U.S. wholesale ebook sales for January, 2010 were $31.9 million, up 261 percent from the same month a year earlier.

To put this in perspective, I created the chart at left. The chart compiles annual ebook sales data from the Association of American Publishers. For 2010, I took the latest IDPF January data and annualized it.

The data is collected from only 12-15 U.S. trade publishers. This means it dramatically understates what's really happening in ebooks, because thousands of large and small publishers, as well as tens of thousands of independent authors, aren't reporting their data. The data also doesn't capture ebooks sold outside traditional retail channels.

The above omissions in no way invalidate the data, because as an indicator of direction and momentum, the AAP/IDPF data provides the best publicly available trending information I'm aware of.

What you see from my chart is that ebook sales grew nicely between 2002 and 2007, but were really too small to register on the radar screens of most industry watchers. Starting in 2008, however, the growth rate started to accelerate, and then this acceleration continued throughout 2009 and into the first month of 2010.

According to the AAP, in 2009 ebooks accounted for 3.31% of all trade book sales, up from only 1.19% in 2008. Even if sales stay flat from January onward in 2010, we're looking at ebooks accounting for 6-8% of U.S. book sales in 2010. If sales accelerate further, a 10% monthly run rate is certainly likely by the end of this year. These numbers are dramatically higher than most reasonably-minded industry watchers predicted even a few months ago.

The rosy numbers above still dramatically underestimate the impact ebooks are having on the bottom line of authors, publishers and retailers. In January, during Amazon's quarterly earnings conference call, Jeff Bezos announced that for books it sells in both Kindle and print formats, ebooks were then accounting for 60% of unit sales.

What's driving the torrid growth of the U.S. ebook market?

Amazon deserves most of the credit. In January, Rory Maher of TBI Research reported that his publishing industry contacts were telling him that Amazon was accounting for 90% of all ebook sales. Other analysts have since confirmed those estimates.

The upcoming April 3 launch of Apple's iPad, along with more aggressive moves by Google, Barnes & Noble, Sony and scores of other new ebook device makers and indie retailers, will no doubt try to chip away at Amazon's purported 90% share.

The real story is not how or if these competitors take share from Amazon. It doesn't matter. What matters is that an ever-growing pro-ebook crowd of powerful consumer-facing companies are pulling out all the stops to help spread the joy of ebooks to every corner of this book-hungry globe.

Why are consumers going ga ga over ebooks? Back in October, I blogged some of the reasons in my Huffington Post piece, Why Ebooks are Hot and Getting Hotter. I listed several reasons, such as the proliferation of exciting new e-reading devices; screen reading rivaling paper; content selection; free ebooks as the gateway drug; lower prices; and great selection.

If we boil it all down to what really matters, it's about customer experience. People who try ebooks are loving ebooks.

Lest we think ebook reading is all about pricey jet set devices like the iPad, Kindle, Sony Reader and B&N nook, it's worth considering some telling data that came out of the latest Book Industry Study Group survey. As I reported in my Tools of Change conference wrap-up, BISG found that 47% of all ebook reading is happening not on these new-fangled devices, but on ordinary computer screens.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide Update - 5 Sites Promote your Ebook

I updated the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide this morning. This free ebook that offers 27 easy-to-implement book marketing ideas that can be implemented at no cost.

I made various minor updates, and then added a new Tip #27, which I'll excerpt here:

Tip #27: Promote your book to top ebook listing sites

Many popular websites and blogs specialize in providing directory-style links to ebooks, and routinely link to Smashwords ebooks. The sites I list here collectively drive *thousands* of readers to the book pages of Smashwords authors each month. There is no cost to the author, although you must earn inclusion from the operator of the site. Many of the sites specialize in free books, although some will list priced books if you provide them a time-limited Smashwords coupon that will enable their visitors to access your book for free. I’m a big believer in such promotions, because it’s a great way for you to gain a lot of readers in a short period of time, and many of these readers could be your first fans and your first reviewers. Before you contact the web sites below, be sure to study the sites, their book categories and their rules. Provide them direct hyperlinks to your Smashwords book page, and pay careful attention to any other information they request, such as book descriptions, price, book cover image, etc. If you carefully follow their instructions and match your book to their needs, you’ll maximize odds of a listing. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. - This is a popular web site run by author Jennifer Armstrong. She provides links to ebooks in all categories, with one simple requirement: The ebook must be free. Submission instructions:

  2. Ebooks Just Published - This great site is operated by Mark Gladding in Australia. It lists both free and paid books. Submission guidelines:

  3. Online Novels - Online Novels provides an attractive directory specializing in free books. Unlike the, however, Online Novels will occasionally list books that are free for a limited time, such as Smashwords books that have 100%-off coupons. Consider using your Smashwords Coupon Generator to create a 100%-off coupon, and then contact this site and ask them if they’d consider linking to your book at Smashwords and publishing the coupon code. Be sure to let them know when the coupon expires! Submissions link:

  4. Getfreeebooks - An attractive directory of free ebooks. The operators ask that you carefully follow their submission guidelines, outlined here:

  5. Finding Free Ebooks - This popular site lists free ebooks, and also will list books that carry a price if you provide them a time-limited coupon code. You’ll find submission instructions at the home page

  6. Books on the Knob - This listing isn't yet in the Guide, but I'll add it as soon as I learn the submission process. This blog specializes in listing bargain books and book promotions, so your book doesn’t necessarily need to be free to earn a listing.
If you know of similar free sites popular with readers that welcome indie ebooks, please suggest them in the comments section. I'm not necessarily looking for reviews sites. The sites above rarely do reviews, though they remain very popular with readers.

Even if you're not a Smashwords author yet (hey, why not?), you can benefit from the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. Download it at

Friday, March 12, 2010

John Buffalo Mailer publishes Music, Food, and Death at Smashwords

John Buffalo Mailer, the author, journalist, actor and playwright son of Norman Mailer, has published a great ebook at Smashwords titled, Music, Food, and Death.

The ebook explores post-Katrina New Orleans through the eyes of strippers.

As part of the Read an Ebook Week promotion, you can download it now through Saturday March 13 for free, exclusively at Smashwords or at Diesel-Ebooks. In the weeks ahead, the ebook will also be available at Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Amazon.

John Buffalo Mailer is the youngest of nine children of this literary family. His father, the two-time Pulitzer-prize-winning literary giant, requires little introduction. His mother, Norris Church Mailer, is an accomplished novelist, painter, and model. Random House is publishing her memoirs next month, titled, "A Ticket To The Circus."

As you might imagine with such literary heritage, John Buffalo was raised with a profound respect for the written word. "Writing was religion in our family," he told me the other day.

It was my privilege to meet Buffalo a few weeks ago in New York, thanks to an introduction by Kelley Allen over at Diesel eBooks.

Buffalo faced an interesting conundrum. Playboy Magazine had paid him to write this cool story about post-Katrina New Orleans, but due to a restructuring at the magazine Playboy was unable to publish it. The rights had reverted back to him, and he was looking for a venue to bring the story to life.

Long story made short, Buffalo published Music, Food, and Death yesterday at Smashwords.

Today, I published the first part of my exclusive two-part interview with John Buffalo over at the Huffington Post. The first part focuses on Music, Food, and Death and the second part, which will appear Monday, explores how his father helped shape him as a writer.

Download book now at Smashwords or at Diesel eBooks. It's free through tomorrow, and then it goes to $1.99.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ebook Coupon Statistics from Read an Ebook Week

Have data, must make pie charts.

It's been a long couple days and my brain is teetering between blank and foggy. It's times like these when I enjoy some good mindless data analysis.

It's fun to look at numbers and speculate about the story they might tell.

Today is day four of Read an Ebook Week, which, I'm convinced, is like Christmas for book lovers.

Our traffic the last few days almost doubled over the same period a week earlier. Thousands of ebook readers around the globe wore their mice ragged during a gluttonous ebook binge to download our 3,000+ participating titles offered at deep discounts.

The traffic Tuesday reached such fervor it caused the site to crash and stay crashed nearly all day. It was a horrible, gut-wrenching experience to preside over our comatose baby. Thankfully, after we performed some radical database surgery, the site jumped back to life, faster than ever.

Back to data. As of this moment, 2,341 Smashwords books with a price are participating in Read an Ebook Week. Probably another 1,600 (don't quote me on that) are also participating because they're already priced at FREE or "Reader Sets the Price."

We gave authors and publishers the opportunity to manually opt-in their books to one of three promotional discount levels of 25%-off, 50%-off, and 100%-off (FREE). The only requirement was that the book needed to carry a pre-coupon price, and the price after application of the coupon needed to be either free, or $.99 or higher.

So I bet you're wondering, which coupon levels did they choose? The fascinating answer is in the pie chart above and the list below.

Coupon Level ... # of books ... Average book price, pre-coupon
100%-off ... 370 ... $3.25
25%-off ... 983 ... $4.61
50%-off ... 988 ... $5.20

Interesting conclusions from the data (plus additional data):
  1. More authors/publishers selected the 50%-off coupon than the 25%
  2. Books given the 50% coupon had an average pre-coupon price 13% above the 25% coupon books, yet after applying the discounts, the 50% books cost $2.60 while the 25%-off books cost $3.45. In other words, the more expensive books were selling for 25% less than the less expensive ones. Got that?
  3. The 50%-off coupon books sold at a rate nearly four times higher than the 25% books. Perhaps the combination of perceived value (of higher price, greater discount) with lower price made all the difference?
  4. The 100%-off books experienced 74 times more downloads (sales) on average than the 50%-off books, and 291 times more than the 25%-off books