With holiday shopping in full swing comes more evidence that e-book sales should enjoy a big bump over the next few weeks. According to an analysis of consumer book-buying behavior conducted by Bowker's PubTrack Consumer service, 20% of readers reported in October that they are likely to buy an e-reader compared to just 10% in the 2009 holiday season. Moreover, just over 10% of readers in September and October said they read e-books on a daily or weekly basis compared to only about 3% a year ago. That combination, the report says, indicates that a spike in e-book purchases could be coming soon.
In other findings in the third-quarter report, Bowker found that e-books accounted for 4.2% of unit sales in the period, a full percentage point higher than in the second quarter and substantially higher than the third quarter of 2009 when e-books accounted for 1.7% of units. While e-books seem to have taken market share from mass market paperbacks and hardcovers, trade paperback sales have proven resilient in the past year. Trade paper units held steady, at 36.2% in the third quarter of 2009 and 36% in the just concluded quarter. Unit sales of hardcovers fell from 34.4% to 32%, while mass market paperback sales fell from just over 21% to 18.4%.
The data also show that e-book readers are becoming increasingly loyal to the format. Comparing e-book buyers' book purchases, 64% bought e-books in the third quarter of 2010, up from 56.6% in the comparable period in 2009. The decline in e-book buyers in purchasing other formats, not surprisingly, mirrored that of the overall market, with meaningful declines of hardcover and mass market paperbacks, but only a dip in unit purchases of trade paperbacks.
Just as e-book purchases are altering the habits of shoppers by format, their growth appears to be lowering the total dollar volume buyers are spending on books. Dollars per buyer fell from $34.81 in last year's third quarter to $31.65 in this year's third period. Sales per buyer in fiction, a particularly strong segment for e-books, fell noticeably, dropping to $17.12 from $19.62 in the year, while nonfiction spending had a more modest decline, falling from $19.56 to $19.00. Children's spending per buyer dropped from $18.06 to $16.62. The declines are due to dips in both prices paid per book and, to a lesser extent, unit purchases.