Amazon began life in Jeff Bezos’ garage back in 1995. Initially, the company focused on selling paper-based books. Today, Amazon.com is the largest internet-based retailer in the world, with 136 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 net sales and approximately 310 million active customer accounts worldwide. And still, print books remain a stable contributor to the company’s overall success. One Click Retail’s latest data shows that sales of print books on Amazon gravely outperformed their electronic counterparts. Boasting a healthy 46% YoY increase, Book sales grew from $2B in Q1 & Q2 2016 to $3B in Q1 & Q2 2017 versus eBooks that saw a mere 6% YoY growth from the same period.

The U.S. has by far the largest publishing industry, followed by China and Germany. According to Publisher’s Weekly, unit sales of print books rose 3.3% in 2016 over the previous year, making it the third year in a row of print growth. Despite the availability of endless digital stimulation, from Netflix to Virtual Reality, and Spotify, Americans still appreciate the oldest form of entertainment: books.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the trends driving Amazon’s Book and eBook sales in the first two quarters of 2017.

The Numbers (US, 2016)

Looking at category trends, Children’s Books was the highlight of the first and second quarter of 2016 and 2017 alike, with a 45% YoY growth. This was mainly due to Harry Potter’s impressive success, representing half of the Top 10 Performing Print Book Sellers of 2016.

The runner-up Top Performing Print Book Category on Amazon.com with a 55% YoY growth rate from $200M sales in Q1 & Q2 2016 to $315M in Q1 & Q2 2017, indicates that religion and spirituality continue to play a significant role in the lives of Americans. In fact, in the first 11 months of 2016, the Religion and Spirituality category generated 455.4 million U.S. dollars in sales revenue.Amazon-yearly-top-books-ebooks-sales-data

There are bestsellers, and then there’s Harry Potter. When author J.K. Rowling’s play script, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released in the summer of 2016, it sold more than 680,000 print copies in the UK in the first three days alone, and became the fastest-selling book since the series finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Forbes has named Rowling the world’s richest author in 2017. Enthusiasm for the wizarding world holds true in the US as well, as Amazon.com’s Top 3 Print Book Sellers for 2016 are all Harry Potter.

eBooks

Unlike the music and home video markets where consumers continue to increase digital spending, when it comes to reading, a new phenomenon known as “digital fatigue” is emerging. In a 2016 survey of book buyers’ shopping preferences, Codex Group found only 34% of book buyer households own e-book readers. Tablets, owned by 66% of book-buying households, were used for only 28% of e-book reading time, while smartphones, with the highest penetration among book buyers (73%), accounted for only 12% of e-book reading time. Consumers are seemingly becoming overloaded with electronic devices and looking to reduce their screen time for reading long texts.

Furthermore, the Association of American Publishers found that e-book sales (according to publishers’ net revenue from all distribution channels) declined 18.7% in the US over the first nine months of 2016 and paperback sales were up 7.5% over the same period, and hardback sales increased 4.1%. According to the Pew Research Center, 65% of Americans reported reading a printed book in the past year, compared to only 28% who read an eBook. This decline in mainstream e-reading is also seen on Amazon.com, where sales of eBooks witnessed a mere 6% YoY increase from $710M in Q1 & Q2 2016 to $750M in Q1 & Q2 2017.

The Numbers (US, 2016)

  • $1.4 Billion: Amazon.com’s 2016 eBook sales
  • 6%: The YoY (Q1 & Q2 2016-2017) growth of Amazon.com’s eBook salesAmazon-US-ebook-sales-data

Amazon UK’s 2017 Q1 & Q2 Print Book sales grossed £360M. Looking at our YTD Top 5 Amazon Print Book Sellers in the UK, we see that Food and Drink is overwhelmingly the most popular category representing 3 of the 5 YTD Top Print Book Sellers. And Crime, Thrillers & Mystery is the most popular category for eBooks. With the exception of Harry Potter, our US & UK data suggests a visible trend where eBooks tend to skew toward Fiction and print Books toward Non-Fiction.Amazon-UK-book-ebook-sales-data

UK eBooks Comparison

Similar to the US, the Publishers Association found that sales of consumer e-books plunged 17% in the U.K. in 2016 compared to sales of print books and journals which went up by 7% over the same period, while children’s books surged 16%. Amazon UK 2017 Q1 & Q2 sales of Digital eBooks grossed £100M.Amazon-top-ebook-sales-uk

Naturally, following Amazon’s dominance of online print book sales, brick-and-mortar bookstores across the United States have suffered. In 2016, revenue of bookstores in the U.S. amounted to 14 billion U.S. dollars, down from 17.23 billion U.S. dollars in 2011. In a move that some have called an act of irony, Amazon’s more recent retail initiative to embrace its roots as a bookseller and open up physical bookstores in select locations across the U.S., has received quite some attention. A few short years ago, it looked like the consumer hype for e-books would phase out physical books. But as the saying goes “everything old is new again”, and our Amazon data suggests a noticeable shift towards paper-based books once again.

One Click Retail is the industry’s most accurate source of sales data for the world’s top eCommerce marketplaces. Using a combination of website indexing, machine learning and proprietary software, OCR estimates weekly online sales figures with 98.5% accuracy down to the level of the individual SKU on Amazon in order to deliver the best insights, analytics and strategies to their brand manufacturer clients. To catch a glimpse of how OCR gives brands critical edge on online platforms with our unique data and expertise, subscribe to our weekly eCommerce insights blog, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you are a brand manufacturer who would like to learn more about how you stack up to the competition—or would like to see your market share and category growth insights—email us at info@oneclickretail.com for a free capabilities demo.