Bookbuying by the Numbers

Publishers Weekly reports today that online booksellers account for 30.5% of book sales, chain book stores 32.5%, discount stores (like Wal-Mart and Costco) 13.5%, independant booksellers 8.7% , grocery stores 3.7% and author/publisher websites 1.8%.  The article states that combined internet sales (32.3%) could overtake big chain bookstore sales soon…but it seems to me that they still have a ways to go to eclipse the share claimed overall by brick-and-mortar sales (which now account for 67.7% of sales).

Projected Share of Consumer Book Purchase in 2008 (source Publisher’s Weekly, Fairfield Research, Greyhound Books)

Online bookstores: 30.5%

Chain bookstores: 32.5%

Discount Stores: 13.5%

Used Sales and Stores: 9.3%

Independent bookstores: 8.7%

Grocery/Spec/Newsstands 3.7%

Author/Publisher/Web: 1.8%

12 thoughts on “Bookbuying by the Numbers”

  1. I miss those brick-and-mortar stores. My small town no longer has one since Waldenbooks closed a few years ago. Groceries and Walmart doesn’t offer much of a selection. The nearest book store is in a city forty miles away. These days, with gas prices especially, I can’t drop by nearly everyday like I did when there was one in town. It’s the internet mostly for me(sigh).

  2. Brick and mortar bookstores have given me much pleasure. There’s nothing like the feel of opening a book for the first time, the smell and feel of pristine pages.
    I just learned that Mr. Goldberg is attending our Writer’s Conference in South Carolina. Welcome!

  3. E-Book Update:
    There’s an article on Kindle on under technology news that may be of interest. The publishing industry does about $35 BILLION dollars of business a year. Of this, e-books represent only about $33 MILLION dollars, or it may be two or three times that (the estimators aren’t sure.) Increasingly, it’s exec’s in the publishing world (!) who are using e-book readers more and more (so they don’t have to lug manuscripts around). But the word is that e-book readers still aren’t anywhere near as good an experience as, say, a paperback.
    On the other hand, the “lugging factor” is working against the paperback in the long term and so, I would argue, is the cost. Paperbacks are just too expensive. And for those of us who don’t like lugging 15 books in a knapsack, an e-book reader makes sense.
    Anyway, one real, palpable advantage to e-books for me is that they are digital. A person can cut and paste, and can add in notes, and it’s all on the computer for further use rather than cribbed in the margins of a paperback. And the notes and examples can be emailed in minutes to publishers or clients all around the world. The other thing is, the day might come when authors can publish their own books to millions of persons by download to an e-book reader on their own without the need for a publisher. I read that Janet Evanovich has about 13 million email addresses of her fans. When she publishes a new book, she sends out a group email to let her fans know. How far-fetched is it for somebody to take the next step and just sell the book as an e-book download? (And maybe cutting the price of a book in half or more, so as to pass on the savings to the client as Wal-Mart does?)

  4. Although the article does not state this explicitly, it appears to indicate that the figures cited above DO include used book sales. (The article notes that the figures for used sales stated above only include book stores, thrift stores, etc., not used books purchased online. Presumably, that means online sales are included in the totals for online bookstores.)
    This gives a distorted picture of the dominance of online retailers. While the online sellers are dominant in used book sales, they are much less so when it comes to new books. (And used sales make up a significant portion of the online business.)
    The figures I would find more illuminating would be the breakdown of sales for new, trade books. Including used book sales with new book sales doesn’t really make much sense.

  5. Mark wrote:
    “Editors are not carrying around manuscripts on an eReader. LOL!
    No, Mark, not on eReaders as such but Microsoft Word, say, can function as an eReader. Have you never submitted a manuscript in an e-file? (And do you think that, over time, the business isn’t going to get more digital? Maybe completely digital? So this is the point: the trend.)
    Peter wrote:
    “I have never in my life desired to cut and paste any part of a book, nor write marginalia.”
    Peter, there’s lots of great books for free on-line. One site is: “Arthur’s Classic Novels.” When you are looking for a new format for a novel, don’t you read, say, a novel in the genre and then work out the structure of the acts and the chapters? Don’t you make notes for yourself as you notice things like parallels and reversals? I do. And if the text is on Word, then its so easy to add in my thoughts and observations when they come to mind and then to highlight them. Later, the highlighted notes can be copied and pasted to another file for use in formatting a story. As well, model chapters and chapter sections can be copied and pasted for in-depth, detailed study. How do you study the novel form if you don’t make notes in the margins, seperate out the chapter sections and work out where the theme is placed? Anyway, this how I do some of my work.

  6. “How do you study the novel form if you don’t make notes in the margins, seperate out the chapter sections and work out where the theme is placed?”
    Simple. I don’t study it. I read nonfiction, mostly. When I read fiction, I may pause to appreciate some aspect of the author’s technique, but I’m not studying it in order to somehow apply it to writing fiction, which I also don’t do.

  7. I do study fiction and I don’t write marginalia. I submit partials and fulls as Word attachments when asked. I don’t know what kind of eFile you are talking about. Taxes? I do that!

  8. Mark, Peter, fine, no problem. For you two gentlemen, the ebook advantage of allowing the reader to capture observations and notes by creating some space in the text, typing in the note, highlighting it and copying it latter to another file, and thereby building up a file of notes on the text, is not an activity that you do, and so ebooks have little attraction for you in terms of this advanced capability. Ebooks aren’t for everybody. Their various capabilities are not for everybody. I don’t use all the capabilities of WORD. But for those of us who find themselves teeming with ideas as they read a text, the ability to capture the ideas right on the text page is huge. And once captured, the notes can be used many times over, skipping the step of writing them in a notebook first, and then typing them.
    Mark, Peter, if you guys don’t make notes in the margin, no problem. Each person works in the way best suited to themselves. But for those who want to interact with the text, for the purpose of developing greater understanding of the craft and for collecting models to analyze and practice with, ebooks are the answer. It’s quick, it’s easy, and notes can be added with minimal effort. It’s great.
    If that’s not how you work, fine, and you may never in your life purchase an ebook. For me, ebooks are so good, and save so much work, that if the price is okay, I’d much prefer to work with them than a regularly printed paperback.
    The only efile I work with is WORD, or, sometimes, PDF. But that’s enough. It depends on how digital you want to get. The cool thing about going digital, I guess, is in the easy re-use of materials and the ability to go from output format to output format (from a text file, to a vidio clip, to an email, to a groupware program.) I like to work with bits and pieces from many sources and to bring them together into a new story. This is the ebook advantage for me. As for agents in NY, according to the article, they are reading ebooks, apparently, of the books they want to read rather then lugging them.
    Who knew? 🙂


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