Charting the global e-book market - exclusive data

In February, the International Publishers Association asked each of its executive members to answer four questions about their developing e-book markets, granting The Bookseller and FutureBook exclusive permission to print edited versions of the answers.

This is, as far as I know, the first time we've had access to such data, and it shows markets growing at different rates across the globe, but with the problems publishers face relatively similar. Thanks to all those who allowed us to use their market reports. I hope it's the first of many such reports, as the e-book market becomes ever more open, and ever smaller.

E-book market: 0.5% of overall sales or €13m (£10m), 2009

Opportunities: “Apple has started to enter the French market through the iPad, and only a few French publishers have signed with them to sell books on agency terms. Amazon has not managed to obtain permission from French publishers to sell their e-books yet. One is also expecting telecom operators such as Orange to enter the market and to propose offers through subscription models. For all these reasons, French publishers have been working on a bill on fixed book price on e-books, in order to keep control over the prices of their books in the digital environment.”

Concerns: “Losing control over their strategy, where companies such as Amazon tend to prevent publishers from determining their individual pricing strategies and from properly remunerating the whole book chain.”
Source:  Alain Kouck, président-directeur général Editis, member of the executive committee of  Syndicat National de L’Édition


E-book market: “Well below 1%” [1% = €90m (£75m)]

Opportunities: “It is generally assumed that the breakthrough is currently happening, and that e-books will start taking a strong position in the market starting in 2011. Indicators for this assumption are reports of strong sales of dedicated e-book reading devices as well as tablets. Estimates vary greatly. On average, estimates range between 5% and 15% market share by 2015.”

Concerns: “Publishers have to reconsider their business models to counter the danger of being disintermediated by direct relations between authors and retailers. Also, in respect to scientific and scholarly publishing, there has been a lot of pressure by libraries
relating to ‘free’ access.”
Source: Manfred Antoni, Ernest Klett AG, Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels


E-book market: 1.1% or ¥11.7bn (£90m), 2010

Opportunities: “The Nomura Research Institute estimates that the market size of e-books in 2015 will be 240bn yen, which would be about 10% of the whole book market. It also estimates that there will be 14 million units in circulation.”

Concerns: “Printed publications are sold under a resale price maintenance system in Japan. However, this does not cover e-books. Japanese copyright law provided publishers the right to exclusively copy paper materials. Yet this right does not extend to digital works, and Japan’s copyright laws permit users to digitize protected works for personal use. As a result, digital bootlegs are a growing issue. The Japan Book Publishers Association is seeking to implement a standard contract of e-publishing between authors and publishers, which provides rights about e-publishing of the work for the publishers that initially published a paperback.”
Source: Japan Book Publishers Association


E-book market: 197.5bn won (£110m)

Opportunities: “The Korean e-book market has been dominated by a small number of e-book solution providers. It is expected to record the market volume of 583.8bn won (£320.2m) in 2013 now that book distribution companies, e-book reader manufacturers and mobile
telecommunication companies are beginning to join the market.”

Concerns: “Existing publishing rights cannot protect publishers’ interests properly and efficiently. Accordingly, legal, institutional and technical measures for securing publishers’ exclusive rights to publications are necessary. The greatest concern of Korean publishers is to secure content adaptable for e-books, set up a reasonable profit distribution system among authors, publishers and distributors and find solutions to compatibility problems of e-book readers and security.”
Source: Seung-Hyun Moon, Korean Publishers Association


E-book market: estimated 350,000 e-books sold in 2010
[PriceWaterhouseCoopers puts the Dutch market at 0.3% or €1.8m (£1.5m) in its most recent market report]
Opportunities: “Sales are expected to double. The Dutch book sector is exploring an open digital platform for B2B distribution and clearance. The Central Book House offered a new print-on-demand service to publishers in order to diminish costs in stock and enhance e-commerce. The American Bookshop introduced the Book Espresso Machine, a small-scale experiment with in-shop printing on demand.”

Concerns: “Piracy or file sharing is a major concern, while lack of standardisation in metadata (accessibility of content) and in publishing and platform formats is also a worry. The forced use of third-party platforms (Amazon, Google—they might even become publishing competitors) under unfavourable conditions, as well as self-publishing, are further areas of concern. Library lending policies are unresolved and under pressure.”
Source: Dutch Publishers Association & PWC


E-book market: estimated at less than 1.5%, or £4m

Opportunities: “Today every major trade book publisher has a digital  publishing director/strategist in place. There are positive developments in the retail sector where major electronic book retailers such as Exclusive, Loot and Kalahari are increasing their e-book offering. Kalahari’s decision to launch its own e-book reader is seen as a major development that will stimulate the local consumption of e- books. The fact that the Kindle is now available in South Africa at less than US $400 and that delivery takes less than eight days, are all encouraging developments.”

Concerns: “There are no legislative constraints to digital and e-book publishing in South Africa. However, publishers who were surveyed indicated that promoting e-books in their territory was not attractive because when readers purchase books from Amazon, which are supplied by their parent company, no financial benefit accrues to them. E-books constitute less than 1.5% of the overall book market in South Africa. The contribution of e-books to revenue is even less, considering that online e-books retail at less than 50% of the price of traditional print books.”
Source: Publishers Association of South Africa


E-book market: 1.6% or €51.3m (£44.1m)

Opportunities: “We think that turnover won’t exceed 10%–12% in next 10 years. In the survey we can detect pessimism about turnover. There isn’t a specific model except for databases of legislation and jurisprudence, but models of licence are developing for public libraries.”

Concerns: “The e-book market is a new field of business that will complement paper and therefore, if there are the juridical necessary guarantees, it will be a necessary field of investment.”
Source: Spanish Publishers Association


E-book market: between 0.1 and 0.2% of the total trade market (€1.5bn)

Opportunities: “Most of the big publishers started their e-book distribution program last October. Mondadori and Giunti on their own, Gems, Feltrinelli and RCS built a joint venture for e-book distribution that is now leading the Italian market. A 30% rise of the market was the gift left to publish-ers after Christmas.”

Concerns: “It is growing fast but the day e-books will outsell print is not imminent. We feel it is important that publishers help the media to print correct information about e-books. Italian book publishers, generally speaking, are determined to be in this new market and grow in it paying attention to the spirit of book publishing — which is that people buy content (not advertising, contacts, or hardware)—and authors are rewarded in proportion to that. The much higher VAT on e-books (20% compared to 4%) makes it impossible to meet customer expectations on prices.”

Source: Stefano Mauri, president and c.e.o. Gruppo editoriale Mauri Spagnol


E-book market: “Some UK publishers are reporting e-book sales growth of between 100% to 800% from 2009 to 2010, with a percentage of print book sales ranging from 1% to 9% of total revenues in 2010.”

Opportunities: “The UK e-book market has lagged approximately two years behind the US, but this gap is shrinking as global e-book sales grow exponentially, aided by the fact that most digital reading platforms and digital devices have global offers enabling easy global distribution of content controlled through publishers’ metadata. Nor does digital reading require the purchase of a dedicated e-book reader: the proliferation of smart phones and tablets is helping grow the e-book market.”

Concerns: “Just as the ease of global distribution mentioned above provides an opportunity to maximise sales, so too does it offer challenges in terms of territorial marketing. Indeed, the whole issue of book rights being divided in ways which suited physical book distribution may become less relevant in a digital distribution world. Publishers can publish digital editions globally more effectively by combining global marketing and dis-tribution efforts. Multiple editions of the same title can cause confusion in open markets as well as encouraging political interventions in exclusive Commonwealth territories such as India. It is a nascent market and therefore unsuitable to over-regulation, although there are clearly many business model issues to be addressed.” 
Source: Richard Charkin, Bloomsbury executive director, PA representative to the IPA


E-book market: approximately 8% or $440m (£270m)

Opportunities: “Market developments for the US e-book industry are promising. Popular newspapers such as the New York Times and USA Today are incorporating e-book sales into their bestseller lists, starting Q1 2011. Spurred by the rapid adoption of such e-reader platforms as the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad, e-book sales have risen steeply, and will likely continue to do so. Barnes & Noble also reported one of its best retail holiday sales in history, much of it driven by the Nook. Google E-Books and are two important business models. Amazon’s electronic distribution business model, however, has been the most successful and has put a strain on traditional trade publishers. The company prices e-books at a rate well below prices for print trade books, often 50% or less than the original price. Amazon’s e-book sales have now surpassed its print unit sales.”

Concerns: “One of the greatest concerns that faces publishers in regards to the e-book market is the proliferation and ease of piracy content in digital form.”
Source: Association of American Publishers and YoungSuk Chi, vice-chairman and c.e.o. Elsevier Science & Technology, AAP board member and IPA president. The market estimates used are based on the AAP's publisher panel.



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Hazel Key's picture

I wonder if the real threat from piracy does not come from the reader, but rather from pirate authors who can simply copy the content and sell it under their own name?

A possible solution for this is to build a good customer base before launch with good marketing, in the hope of selling quickly, and to keep producing new work so that you're not relying on that one book?

DRM will divide the industry

TimCTaylor's picture

Great post. Interesting to read the comments in the 'concerns' section about majors worrying over DRM.

As an earlier commenter pointed out, the cheapness of (some) e-books means that many customers will be swayed by convenience more than price. If I can find a comfy sofa chair at Starbucks that isn't already taken (unlikely) and bring out my wireless e-reader device, I can browse and read a short story within a minute or so and pay a fraction of the cost of my carrot cake slice. That's a fun and cheap experience. Why would I go through the hassle of piracy?

And that's why I think there will remain an indie-major split; majors will want to sell at prices that make the inconvenience of piracy seem worthwhile, and so they will add DRM. Good indie publishers know that convenience sells and DRM is inconvenient.

Best wishes,



Great article!

Although I agree with Adam on Piracy issue, I think is not going to be as it was with the music industry. In my opinion, as eBook prices should be set by authors, they could be so low that piracy wont even make sense to readers. For the greater part of users, it will be easier to buy an ebook for 1 or 2 dollars than making the effort ofdownload it from some random pirate site.

Another thought that keeps going on in my head, is how authors have now the chance to take all the desitions that used to be taken by publishers. I'm guessing that some will learn the bussines and other would hire a consultant or an editor, and pay them just once instead of giving away a percentege of their life-time profits.

Best regards from Buenos Aires




Thanks for aggregating and sharing this data. I think many of the markets outside the US will see explosive growth in the next couple years as the catalysts fall into place to support the emerging ebook ecosytems (e-reading devices [specialized like dedicated e-readers and general purpose like smart phones and tablets], greater ebook store selection and choice, lower prices, increased customer awareness). Here's roughly what we've seen in the US based on AAP data (which surveys only a small number of publishers):

2007: ~1/2 of 1%
2008: ~1%
2009: ~3%
2010: 8.3%

Note that these numbers *understate* what's happening, because they only include 12-15 US publishers, and don't include self-published titles. The numbers further understate the opportunity since not all US publishers have converted their entire catalogs over to ebooks, and the numbers don't reflect either the monthly runrate for December, or the post December boost all publishers are experiencing. Several publishers who fully embraced ebooks are now seeing over 1/3 of revenues from ebooks. Sourcebooks reported 35% of their sales in january were ebooks:

At Smashwords, some of our best-selling authors are reporting over 100 ebooks sold for every print book sold. Primary drivers: Low cost ebooks (our average ebook is priced under $4.99) plus authors who are unable to benefit from traditional brick and mortar distribution of print.

Mark Coker

Interesting Article...

Really interesting to see that the US and UK do appear to be striving forward in the adoption of eBooks.  Will be very interesting to see if the growth in the percentage of sales of eBooks in US and UK continues steadily, or starts to escalate.

To add to the points around concerns over eBooks, I think the various file types/DRM that different eReaders are able to accept can only fracture the market for them, even though they protect the platforms of the major businesses producing them.

The piracy debate is an interesting one - I always think of the music industry on this one; as even with proprietary DRM and often closed platforms this is still an issue.  For me, I like to think that people will be more willing to pay a fair price to writers/authors for their books, and that it's a totally different situation to music, totally different demographic (although some level of piracy is undoubtedly going to occur whatever barriers are in the way, or not).

Looking at these numbers, the digitalisation of literature is very much here to stay - readers are only going to become more digitally literate, and expect richer and more social ways of accessing books in every genre.

Kind regards


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