Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ebooks Steaming Toward A Billion Dollar Year As Sales Are 'About To Spiral Upward'

By Tom Dulaney, Editor

Forrester Research specialist James L. McQuivey says ebook sales will close in on $1 billion by the end of the year and forecasts “ebook buying is about to spiral upward.” Total book sales in all formats amounted to 23.9 billion last year.

His benchmark for the spiral started three years ago. “Since Amazon.com introduced the Kindle eReader in 2007, all of the industry's attention has focused on the rapid adoption and proliferation of eReaders,” he writes in a summary of the full report.

Industry insiders who want all the details can get them from Forrester for $499. It focuses on the 7% of adult US ebook readers and points out: “Many of them are without eReaders.”

“This small, energetic will grow so rapidly that it will easily spend $3 billion on eBooks to 2015,” he forecasts.

The provocative sections for the full report include: “A Very Altered Publishing World is About to Emerge.” With ebook sales expected to triple to more than $2.8 billion by 2015, he says “ebooks are about to become half of all books that ebook readers buy.”

Within Amazon, the half-way mark has long since been breached. In a recent announcement, Amazon said ebooks are outselling printed books sold by the company by 2 to 1.  And that holds true, Amazon adds, at all of the highest levels—the tom 10 best sellers, the top 25, the top 100.

In most recent estimates, Amazon has dominated all ebook sales, taking 76% of the pie. Total book sales for 2009 were $23.9 billion, according to the American Association of Publishers. 

Industry observers expect that by year's end, some 7 million Kindle ereaders will be in consumers hands. Add to the pipeline projections that Apple will have sold 12 million iPads by year's end, and tablets such as Samsung's Galaxy have yet to make their impact.

The Kindle is a dedicated ebook reading device, so the projections for the Kindle show a solid commitment to ebooks by a rapidly growing force of readers. But the iPad, in addition to its game apps, connectivity to social networks and user's emails, is a strong platform for ebook reading.

Early this year, Amazon began separating ebook reading from Kindle ereader ownership, expanding the universe of potential Kindle Store book buyers to personal computers, Blackberrys, iPhones, and Android-based devices.

Amazon has been aggressive and quick to open its Kindle Store doors to new ebook-reading devices, taking only days after the debut of the iPad to place links for “Kindle for iPad” on the buying pages of every book in its collection of over 720,000 titles. That move caught most pundits flatfooted, holding their pronouncements that the iPad would be a “Kindle Killer” in hand as they watched Amazon's end-run around the whole “which ereader device will survive?” media circus.

Plus Amazon happily sells its “killer” every day,  to all who want to buy it, and will fill it with books via the Kindle for iPad app.

CNET.com must have gotten a closer look at the full Forrester report, revealing further details beyond  Forrester's summary. The survey covered some 4,000 people, with about 280 (7%) sharing the views. Digitized book lovers split their affections, with 41% of their book reading done as ebook reading. But Kindle device owners split their total reading diet at 66% in ebook format and 44% on paper.

And though Amazon dominates ebook sales, CNET revealed, the Amazon Kindle is not the No. 1 medium of choice for ebook reading. First place goes to computers, with 35% reading books on their computer. The Kindle comes in second, at 32%. No figures were given for the iPad.

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