Ebooks now outsell hardcover print books

Ebooks have passed another significant milestone on their way to becoming the most popular book format.  For the first time ever ebooks outsold hardcover books.

Last week, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) released sales figures for the first quarter of 2012.  The data showed that ebook revenues increased 28 percent to $282.3M and that adult hardcover revenues increased 2.7 percent to $229.6M.  Adult paperback was still the largest single category with $229.8M in revenues which was a decrease of 10.5 percent from the previous year.  Adult mass market paperback experienced a precipitous decline of 20.8 percent to $98.9M in revenue.

Add it all up and it’s clear that people love the ebook format and are buying ebooks instead of paperback books.  It’s very interesting to see that hardcover sales actually went up slightly from the year before while paperback sales got crushed.  There are many possible explanations for why hardcover sales continue to do well.

The biggest reason probably has to do with the availability of new titles.  Hardcover books are the most expensive so the publishers typically release new books in the hardcover format first.  After the hardcover has been out for awhile they will make the book available as an ebook and a paperback.  So customers that really want new releases will have to buy hardcovers.  This is huge factor in why hardcovers continue to sell well.

Another reason is convenience.  Customers that buy paperbacks are typically buying a book for portability.  Ebooks are superior to paperbacks in the portability and convenience department.  You can read them on a slew of devices and you can purchase them from almost anywhere.  And as Fifty Shades has shown, no one will be able to see what you’re reading.

Libraries need to realize that ebooks will continue on their path to domination.  Last year, ebooks outsold all print books on Amazon and were a large reason that Borders went bankrupt.  This year, they passed hardcover sales.  It’s only a matter of time before ebooks outsell all print books and become the primary format for books.