Self Publishing grows 4% in the year according to Neilsen

U.S. book publishing industry stats from Nielsen

Frankfurt Book Fair 2015 is in the rear view mirror but there were a few noteworthy titbits gleaned from the event. Some of the more important facts and figures were shared by NielsenÔÇÖs Jonathan Stolper his state-of-the-U.S.-market presentation.

Although you can argue NielsenÔÇÖs data isnÔÇÖt complete and itÔÇÖs therefore far from perfect, itÔÇÖs one of the few resources available for market trends and analysis. With that in mind, here are the most interesting points I saw in JonathanÔÇÖs presentation:

Self-publishing and the Big Five are crowding out everyone else ÔÇô According to NielsenÔÇÖs data, from Q1 2014 to Q1 2015, self-published books have grown from 14% to 18% of the overall market. In that same period the Big FiveÔÇÖs share has grown from 28% to 37%. Meanwhile, the rest of the market, all the large, medium and tiny publishers, have seen their share decrease from 58% to 45%.

The print/e split is now roughly 74%/26% ÔÇô Plenty of articles have been written about the plateauing ebook market. Most publishers report ebooks represent anywhere from 15% to 30% or so of total revenue. According to Nielsen, the current state of equilibrium is closer to a 74%/26% split. That ratio varies widely by genre, btw, but itÔÇÖs worth looking at your own rate to see how it compares to the overall industry average.

Price drives ebook interest ÔÇô According to NielsenÔÇÖs consumer survey, almost 60% of respondents said theyÔÇÖd choose e over p if the savings is at least $4 for the former. Additionally, approximately 50% said theyÔÇÖd do the same even if the ebook is only $2-3 cheaper than the print version. So as publishers wrestle back consumer pricing via the new agency model, driving ebook prices up, itÔÇÖs clear theyÔÇÖre inadvertently (and sometimes deliberately) nudging consumers back to print.

Consumer prefer print and e, not or ÔÇô 49% of consumers surveyed said they bought print and ebooks in the past 6 months vs. 42% who only bought print and a paltry 9% who only bought e. Just because a consumer buys ebooks doesnÔÇÖt mean theyÔÇÖve abandoned print. This is a huge opportunity most publishers are overlooking. Why arenÔÇÖt there more digital products that complement print rather than assume the ebook is replacing the print one?

Amazon dominates subscriptions too ÔÇô ItÔÇÖs been hard to find data on the all-you-can-read ebook subscription market but Nielsen is finally shining some light on the model. And just as they do pretty much everywhere else, Amazon is crushing it. First of all, according to Nielsen only 5% of consumers have signed up for any ebook subscription solution, so the market remains small. Kindle Unlimited led the way with the largest chunk of market share, jumping from approximately 40% in January 2015 to almost 60% in April. Scribd and Oyster were tiny players by comparison in that period, and theyÔÇÖre only getting smaller. Given their teensy share of a small segment, itÔÇÖs no wonder Oyster is going away soon.

Btw, this was the first year for the FairÔÇÖs Business Club option and I hope itÔÇÖs not the last. The Business Club was a terrific location for quiet meetings, away from the traffic and noise of the hall floors. It ranked high in serendipity value as well: I bumped into and met with at least a handful of other attendees I might not have crossed paths with otherwise. Highly recommended.

Jonathan Stolper