The Future Of eBooks Versus Traditional Printing

March 17, 2014 Formatting Books 0

About this spreadsheet:  This spreadsheet was created by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, to help publishing industry participants model the implications of the simultaneous convergence of three powerful trends:

1. The decline of print as a reading format.
2. The rise of ebooks as a reading format.
3. The rise of self-published ebooks, enabled by democratized publishing tools and distribution.

Specifically, it provides a tool to estimate the percentage of the trade ebook and print market, measured in USD, that will be controlled by self-published authors.  Users of this spreadsheet can use it to estimate market share for specific countries, genres, or to estimate global market share.

I have seeded the spreadsheet with my own estimates.  The numbers through 2013 are a blend of AAP data and my own estimates. My confidence level is fairly high that I'm not too far off.   The numbers for 2014 and beyond are my own estimates, and my confidence level decreases the further out I go.  I could be wildly conservative or wildly optimistic. I modeled for fairly linear continuation of trends, but if the past experience in the ebook market presages the future, when things hit tipping points, the change can be exponential.  I can't predict the future, though I think the general directional trends will continue based on the three trends above and my own measure of changing author sentiments.  This is where you come in:  Enter your own numbers.  Paint your own picture, and then publish it and share your reasoning.  I'm sharing the spreadsheet to stir discussion about what might or might not happen.

Note that results for Line 10 (percentage of the book market controlled by indie authors) will somewhat underestimate the true percentage, because the spreadsheet formulas assume that indie authors have zero percent of print book market.  Obviously, this is not the case.  Although most indie print authors receive no distribution to brick and mortar bookstores, their print books are avaialable for sale in online venues such as Amazon.  Even still, not all indie authors do print books, and most of those who do report that their ebook sales exceed print.  Many Smashwords bestsellers of fiction who do both print and ebooks have reported selling over 1,000 ebooks for every print book.  Non-fiction authors typically report slightly better results with print, although there is much variation.  The omission of print from this spreadsheet will become less impactful if print as a format continues to decline in importance.