October is the best month to sell print books. It used to be September, but computerization has pushed even an 'old school' industry like print to a more 'just in time' inventory system. (Good! Fewer returns will help save the industry.) So it shouldn't be a surprise that ebooks lost market share despite a small sales growth.
Sales of trade books were good in October. I speculate this is partially due to the 'Borders surplus stock' having worked its way through the channels. I submit that the recovery of adult paperback and children's books, two categories Borders was strong in, are compelling reasons to believe we are just now past the industry disruption of the Boarders close down.
Do note that data is intentionally being obscured. I had to back out these numbers, so there is more uncertainty in this month's data than prior posts.
Enough discussion, onto the graphs. Notice how ebook sales continue to climb?
Notice how October is usually the best selling month for paper-trade books (next image). Overall, trade (paper) had a good month.
It was not a good month for hardcover sales. The lack of a strong peak in Hardcover is one reason I speculate *some* of the strength this month was restocking post Borders liquidation. If there was an overall return to paper, we would have seen stronger recovery in Hardcovers. However, there is a good chance that 'just in time' ordering is putting this format out a month in the purchase cycle.
The dwindling of my (previous) favorite paper format, mass market paperback now has a definitive trend. A trend that shows the format will be out of production after 2014. :( I've been writing for a while how this genre requires a recovery to sustain 'economy of scale.' Its now almost too late. I expect MMPB to fold back into paperback for some publishers soon.
Borders once dominated paperback sales. I believe the absolutely spectacular spike in paperbacks can only be explained by a 'springback effect' post Borders liquidation. I'm happy to see it!
Childrens books had a nice spike too (for a non-Harry Potter year). I speculate this isn't just Borders. I speculate that Netflix and music subscriptions are 'taking away' gifting opportunities for relatives who wish to buy physical gifts. I speculate relatives are going back to gifting books. Any thoughts?
Due to the sheer amount of mis-information and obscurity on book/ebook sales, I like to plot seasonal graphs to show how the market is changing.
I start with a bar graph on ebooks. This shows how incredibly fast the year on year (YOY) growth has been for ebooks. :) It also shows how analogous the sales pattern in 2011 was to 2010. I now believe 2013 will be the last year with over doubling of ebook sales. Note: I'm not saying the market won't keep growing. Technology growth tends to slow once half the potential market has converted to the technology. That half way point for ebooks will happen in 2012, but the slowing of the growth shouldn't be obvious until 2014.
The initial buying of Hardcovers pre-Holiday sales are weak but not horrid. I've heard rumors that hardcover buying was delayed this year. Since that is a more businesslike way to stock inventory... I could believe it. Oh, I'm skeptical, but we could see a further compression of the book season.
The paperback spike looks less impressive when plotted versus prior years. See the June deficit? It is possible the October spike is just restocking shelves post Borders liquidation. :(
Since the trend down in MMPB crossed the 2010/2011 year boundary, the doom of MMPB is less obvious when plotted this way, but the decline is still obvious. Hence why plotting data different ways to see trends is important.
The spike up in Children's sales is greater than the post-Borders deficit! Hence my theory relatives are shifting gift buying back to books. :)
I've been calculating the trend and comparing with year ago sales. I created this bar chart to emphasize change. The most interesting tidbit is plotting this way we continue to see 2nd half 2011 ebook sales grew at a slower rate than the 1st half. However, the growth was still strong.
All the graphs show a (one month) recovery of print sales (excluding MMPB). They also show ebooks are strong. I speculate the next big splash will be November post the K4 deliveries. It will be very interesting to see the January sales data (which won't be released for about 3 months). I expect to see another start of year spike.