back to article Nearly a quarter of all books sold in US in 2012 were ebooks

Sales of standalone e-readers might be declining, but ebooks make up a growing portion of sales for US book publishers, according to the latest stats from the Association of American Publishers (AAP), a trade association. The AAP's annual "StatShot" report for 2012, released on Thursday, shows ebook sales accounting for 22.55 …


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  1. Herby

    But I like real books!

    I can use it in a variety of ways, fold over pages, make notes, pass it to somebody else, and NEVER need to worry about silly DRM crud (see tirade about Microsoft's "always connected" things).

    Besides, it doesn't require electrons (and the power cord they need) to read. Yes, even re-chargeables need power sometime. I like to read without needing a power outlet nearby.

    But that is just me!

    Then again, there is ElReg!

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: But I like real books!

      Definitely. But if ebooks were priced sensibly (how much does it cost to produce a printed book? I realise it's volume dependent,) instead of for rip-off, I might be more interested. (I won't deny that I occasionally raid Gutenberg for out-of-copyright volumes.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: But I like real books!

        @Herby & Chris Miller

        I agree with both of you. To me there is only one feature I like about ebooks though...FIND! Hitting Ctrl+F in a ebook (especially a technical ebook) is so extremely handy. But, there rip offs! When you buy a e-book, you just bought a computer file and some overhead of hardware and electricity. However, when you buy an actual hard copy, you have just...

        1. Paid for the price of logging trees (Pay wages of loggers, land surveying, costs of staying "green", etc.).

        2. Paid for the transportation of said trees (Pay wages of drivers, pay wages of mechanics to keep the trucks running, cost of fuel, cost of supplying the fuel by big oil companies, etc.).

        3. Paid for a physical print press (Again, pay wages of....)

        I'm not going to list more, but you know there is more. So how can a publishing company justify selling an e-book at identical, or near identical prices of an actual hard copy? I think if you buy the physical book, you should automatically qualify for a e-book of it. Unfortunately, this publishing paradigm along with the music industry's paradigm of copyright infringement penalties just prefers big profits with no logic for them presented.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But I like real books!

        Overpriced ebooks are what Pirate Bay was designed for!

    2. Irk

      Re: But I like real books!

      I like physical books, so I can loan them to people. But I also like hitting "buy" and getting a book I can read anywhere my phone goes with me, which is to say everywhere, regardless of whether a local shop has a paper version in stock. (If I want to buy ebooks local, I can find an indie author I know or go to .) For collector's items I go physical, for voracious reading appetite satiation it's been digital more and more often. Sometimes instant is worth it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But I like real books!

      Funny, my Sony eReader ticks all them boxes.

      Fold over pages (yep, bookmarks, as many as you want)

      Make notes (yep, you can write on the page and save it as an overlay)

      Pass it to somebody else, yep, no problems here.

      Borrow from library, yep, ditto

      Don't require electrons to read. Yep, epaper doesn't use any electrons to display.

      Perhaps you have just used the lazy shoppers choice e-reader and assume they are all the same...

  2. Notas Badoff

    Oranges and pips

    "... shows ebook sales accounting for 22.55 per cent of all revenue ..."

    "Still, the fact that nearly one of four books sold last year was an ebook is ..."

    The linked article talks about %age of revenue. You then extrapolate to proportion of copies sold. Wrong. Or at least, precise only to the degree that publishers are screwing their customers. With the too-often seen current situation, where a $20 book is a $17.95 ebook, then they unfortunately approach equivalence.

    But oh we wish that publishers would get a clue. If my friend Foo says "The life of Bar" is a great read, I might splash $5 on such a recommendation. But $15 or $20 or more is a no-go. I'll buy so many more copies at fractional prices than the greedy full prices. The volume will go higher if you lower the barrier. Give me a bargain and you'll make a mint.

    1. Ian 55
      Thumb Up

      Re: Oranges and pips

      Yep. I have over a thousand files for my Kindle program on the Nexus7, all 'bought' from Amazon. All but five cost nothing, and three others cost 10p (when Life of Pi etc were suicidally low). So I have 'bought' vastly more ebooks than real ones, but spent much more on real ones.

    2. Steve Knox

      Re: Oranges and pips

      With the too-often seen current situation, where a $20 book is a $17.95 ebook, then they unfortunately approach equivalence.

      Except all too often (at least in the fiction market), that $20 book is a hardcover, and the $17.95 ebook should really be compared to the $7.95 paperback, which is what most people end up buying...

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    They haven't caught up to real books

    I was rather surprised to see the Android reader doesn't even support footnotes when I was re-reading one of my Terry Pratchett favorites.

    I can't underline/circle interesting things, which I do with a lot of my technical books, nor can I mark important things that I want to refer to later.

    Another big surprise is there are usually no illustrations and they're poor if they're there. They're tiny little things and I have had trouble zooming to see important detail.

    Then there was the instance of DRM where I couldn't browse at lunch because I had no wi-fi or cell connection so it could call home.

    Maybe in another 5-10 years...

    1. Don Jefe
      Thumb Up

      Re: They haven't caught up to real books

      Agree wholeheartedly on the illustration thing!

    2. Steve Knox

      Re: They haven't caught up to real books

      I was rather surprised to see the Android reader doesn't even support footnotes when I was re-reading one of my Terry Pratchett favorites.

      In other words, it doesn't support Terry Pratchett novels.

      I can't underline/circle interesting things, which I do with a lot of my technical books, nor can I mark important things that I want to refer to later.

      This is the worst. My favorite games magazine publisher was absolutely gushing about the fact that their puzzle magazines are now in electronic format, so I tried them out -- the system they used also did not allow any form of marking -- on a puzzle magazine.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: They haven't caught up to real books

        Positively puzzling!

    3. stuartnz

      Re: They haven't caught up to real books

      What reader are you using - my Kindle's Pratchett novels are littered with highlighted passages, as are the epub editions I use on my Nexus 7 with Aldiko or Moon Reader.

      1. Gavin King

        Re: They haven't caught up to real books

        That is something which has just occurred to me: do these e-readers have the ability to set different fonts and sizes throughout? Something like the small caps Pratchett uses for Death's speech, or the positively humongous voice of Azarael? And what about mixing languages? Even ones for which there are no "real" equivalents (I'm thinking of Tolkien's elvish, for example)?

        I ask out of genuine curiosity: I don't have any e-books, but would like to know how they work a bit better.

        1. stuartnz
          Thumb Up

          Re: They haven't caught up to real books

          Someone asking a genuine question about ebooks out of a desire to be informed, rather than just slagging them off reflexively and demeaning their users' intelligence and taste in literature? That makes you seem positively out of place in this comments thread!

          To answer your question strictly from my own experience with reading 35 or so of Pratchett's books on my Kindle and Nexus 7 - every ereader app I've used had no trouble mixing font sizes, so that Death always spoke in small caps. I've also read books with Hindi (devnagari) included and had no display issues. The ability to change font size, page size and line spacing is one of many features that make ereaders much, much better than one would believe if one only listened to the braying of the naysayers dominating this discussion.

          1. Gavin King

            Re: They haven't caught up to real books

            Thanks! That's actually good to know: I think "digital" and almost instinctively think green-on-black 80 columns, which is absurd, but there you have it.

            And sorry about being rational. I'll go back to foaming at the mouth tomorrow when I'm feeling better.

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    But they weren't in Welsh (at least on the Kindle)

    Seems Amazon are refusing to allow Welsh publishers to sell Welsh books on the Kindle (although they allow Basque and Catalan) - they've got up a petition about it ( which is getting quite a lot of twitbook attention (and is now up to over 2000 signatures in a couple of days)

  5. Dennis 6

    eBooks still have to make much progress before I prefer them

    The worst thing about ebooks is you don't own them and can't pass them on, so they need to REALLY cheap.

    The normal life-cycle of a book I own is:-

    1) Buy the book

    2) Maybe read it

    3) Maybe become enthusiastic about it and lend it to a friend

    4) Maybe give it away, probably to Oxfam

    eBooks allow only activities 1) and 2). With these disadvantages they need to be much cheaper than the paper version.

    When I want to buy a book I go to Amazon Market place and buy it as cheaply as possible, often second hand, and often costing £2.81, nearly always much cheaper than the ebook, even if it is available.

    I have a hardback book I'd really like to get read, but I don't want to be carrying it around all the time, but won't re-buy the Kindle version just to get it onto my ereader; I'd have bought it twice then. When one buys a paper book the Kindle version, if available, should come bundled with it. It probably started out in electonic form, anyway. The book publishing industry needs to get real or they will go the same way as the music industry.

    1. Ian 55

      Re: eBooks still have to make much progress before I prefer them

      Hence the classic comment that a Kindle is the ideal present for someone who's taste in books is so bad, you're never going to want to read one...

    2. Peladon

      Re: eBooks still have to make much progress before I prefer them

      Without wanting to start sounding like a broken record... (blush):

      Yes. If you buy an e-book from, say, Amazon you buy a licence to read that book. But if you bought, for example only, one of my books direct from one of my e-publishers, that's not what you get. What you get is a file. Or, in the case of the publisher I'm thinking of, a number of files. You get, for the one title, at the one _low_ small-publisher price:

      A (title).prc file - in case you have a Kindle

      A (title).epub file - in case you have some other e-reader

      A (title).pdf file - in case you like PDFs

      A (title).html file - so you can read it in a browser

      And you get all of those files - as files - to keep, to give away - to do what you like with. No DRM, no access control - just the files.

      Can this be abused? Can the files be copied, given away and kept at the same time, shared on streaming sites? Sure they can. Do I, or indeed my publishers want you to do those Bad Things(tm)? Nope. Not at all. But hell. We can't actually stop you anyway. Not if you want to badly enough. But we (my publishers and I) would quite like you to read them though. Well, my publishers want you to read all the other books they do by all the other writers as well. And, perhaps surprisingly, so do I :-).

      So I have to question your assertion that 'e-books' only allow (1) and (2). To be honest - some do. Some don't. The choice, as they say on all the game-shows - is yours :-)).

      1. Deano2099

        Re: eBooks still have to make much progress before I prefer them

        There might be no DRM, but I'll bet there's a license I have to agree to that technically means if I did give it away after I'd read it you could sue me. Now, I'm sure you wouldn't, but there's still a principle there.

  6. FreeTard


    ebooks are shite, give me a real book any day of the week. This is an entirely personal opinion of course as these kindle things seem to be very popular with both my inlaws and my dad.

    My mother, kids and wife are with me though, and have zarro interest in them. Feck the trees, I'd rather pay full whack and provide the jobs and the joy of turning real pages over.

    I can understand using technical books in e-format though, as there is no joy in reading them in either format, and I prefer being able to CTRL-F for strings of relevant text. But when would you ever do that for a novel?

  7. RegGuy1 Silver badge

    ebooks -- no thanks

    I would never buy an ebook. Anything with a wiff of DRM means I'm a licensee, not an owner. That means, at the whim of the real owner, I could have my copy revoked and be no longer able to view it at my leisure. Try taking away my right to read with a good old fashioned tree.

    Nope, I don't mind paying for an ex-tree, but I'll never pay for an ebook. To quote another commentator -- "ebooks are shite."

    Pint -- something better to spend my money on than an ebook.

    1. stuartnz

      Re: ebooks -- no thanks

      "ebook" does not automatically equal "DRM". It's still true that the overwhelming majority of ebooks are DRM-laden, but the range and number of DRM-free ebooks is growing. The developers of Calibre actively promote the sale of DRM-free ebooks through their facebook page, one of the many reasons I enjoy using their product.

  8. Otto is a bear.

    A convert, sort of

    I'm a voracious reader, and I sometimes run out of books I want to read, ebooks have provided a cheap way to read either crap, or sample a new author without the need to buy a book. It's also useful when going on holiday, or into hospital, I can easily take 4 or 5 books with me in a small package.

    However, I prefer to read and own a paper book, a room packed with books is partial heaven for me. As to the cost of eBooks, I think they are about right. I noticed that no one mentioned the royalty paid to the author in the list of costs, how much is that?

    I hope the future is plural, there is space for both paper and e, but perhaps only the very best sellers will land up in print, for collectors only, which would be a shame.

  9. Chuckl

    ONLY a quarter of all books sold in US in 2012 were ebooks

    There, I fixed it for you.

  10. TeeCee Gold badge

    US sales.

    Just out of interest, how many of those US sold eBooks were US sales and how many were because (outside of a few specific countries) Amazon's Kindle and apps force you to use the US store?

    I detect a strong hint of Apples and Pears being compared........

  11. Maharg

    My Two Cents

    I spend most of my day in front of some kind of screen, from the moment I wake up I am in front of a TV screen eating breakfast, windscreen going to work, work screen at work, work screen at lunch only not with work on, then more work screen, then more windscreen, then get home to watch the TV screen and sometimes use my personal screen, interspaced with smaller screen I carry with me all the time.

    I like reading a book, it’s a physical thing, not a file, you can feel it when you hold it, you can judge it by its cover, and you can put it on a shelf alongside others to be chosen at a glance to read again, same reason I still buy albums and don’t just download everything, same reason I like having going to see live music and making trips to the pub to drink with friends instead of drinking beer while on Skype, I know I can do all this things in front of a screen, but it’s just not the same.

    I'll drink to that...

  12. Andus McCoatover

    It'll never happen in Blighty...

    My mate, years ago, went to US. Came back with a copy of (then-banned) Spycatcher.

    Decent jovial 'snob' that he was, he nonchalontly left it on the coffee table at his home in UK, when visitors appeared.

    Now - imagine your detested mother-in-law's face visiting, only to see "Fifty Shades of Grey" on the bedside table (or much worse, next to the toilet, with an adjacent pack of Kleenex....)

    Somehow a 'Kindle' could never have the same effect .

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