E-book Sales Fell 10% in 2017

Unit sales of traditionally published e-books fell 10% in 2017, compared to 2016, according to figures released by PubTrack Digital, part of the NPD book group. The service, which tracks sales from about 450 publishers, said e-book unit sales hit 162 million last year, down from 180 million units in 2016.

NPD reported that combining print sales from its BookScan service with PubTrack digital sales, e-books accounted for 19% of total units (both print and digital) last year, down from 21% in 2016. The top selling e-book among the trade publishers, it reported, was The Handmaid’s Tale published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Adult fiction remained the most popular e-book category–44% of sales in the category were in the digital format–but e-book sales in the segment dropped 14% from 2016, to 108 million units.

E-books have a much smaller share of the adult nonfiction market, 12%, but sales in the segment rose 3% last year, to 38 million units, NPD reported.

The steepest decline in e-book sales last year was in the children’s category, where sales fell 22%. In children’s, the digital format accounted for only 5% of all sales last year. E-book sales were down 8% in the young adult category, falling to 4 million units sold. The format comprised 18% of all young adult unit sales last year.

All the major trade houses, including the Big Five, report sales to PubTrack. The service, however, does not track e-book sales from Amazon’s independent authors. In his letter to shareholders earlier this month , Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that more than 1,000 authors using Amazon’s KDP platform had royalties of over $100,000. A company spokesperson said e-book sales at the company have continued to grow globally through traditional outlets and subscription services, specifically Kindle Unlimited.

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