E-books’ market share of new-book sales increased slightly in 2014 over 2013, while the share of all book sales made through online retailers and bookstore chains dipped in the same period. Those were two of the major trends found by the most recent survey of consumer book-buying behavior conducted by Nielsen Books & Consumers.
E-books accounted for 15% of the spending on all new books (backlist and frontlist titles) last year, up from 12% in 2013. The format’s share of units rose at a slightly slower rate, rising by one percentage point in the year, to 21%, an indication that though e-books remain lower priced than print titles, prices have increased. Print accounted for 70% of new-book spending in 2014, a drop of seven percentage points from 2013. The print declines came in trade paperback and hardcover, while mass market paperbacks had a slight increase in their share of spending. Consumers still spent the most money on hardcovers in 2014, with the format accounting for 32% of spending in the year, followed by trade paperback. Trade paperbacks accounted for the most units sold, though their share fell from 30% in 2013 to 27% last year; hardcovers held a 26% share of units in 2014, down from 27%. The audiobook category, led by digital downloadable works, had a solid year with its share of spending rising to 3% in 2014 from 1%.
The online retail channel, which includes Amazon, accounted for 35% of all new book sales, both print and digital, in 2014, down from 38% in 2013. Online retailers had a larger share of units, accounting for 39% of units sold, reflecting the impact of the sale of lower-priced e-books. The decline in online retailers’ share of spending despite growth in the e-book market suggests that e-tailers’ share of print book sales may have declined last year.
Bookstore chains’ share of spending fell from 25% in 2013 to 22% in 2014, and its share of units last year was 21%. The book club/book fair channel picked up share in 2014, accounting for 10% of spending, up from 5% in 2015; Audible is considered a club for survey purposes, and the increase in sales through the club channel reflects higher sales of digital audio. Sales through other channels also gained some significant share in the year, with spending up to 17% from 14%. Independent booksellers’ share of new-book spending dipped from 5% to 4% in 2014, according to Nielsen.
The survey also found that the percentage of e-book buyers who own an Android phone took a big leap in 2014. Thirty-three percent of e-book buyers said they owned an Android phone in 2014, up from 9% in 2013. Apple’s iPhone still was the digital reading device owned by most e-book buyers, but its share in 2014 rose by only two percentage points over 2013 (consumers could select more than one device). The iPad’s share also rose by two percentage points in the year. Dedicated e-reader ownership declined in the year, with 21% of e-book buyers saying they owned a Kindle e-reader, down from 25% in 2013; 9% of e-book buyers owned a Nook device, down from 12%. E-book buyers also showed slightly less interest in Amazon’s tablet, the Kindle Fire, with its share dropping by one percentage point in 2014, to 23%.