Print Continues to Outsell Digital During First Half of 2014

In Discussion by Dennis Abrams

Ebook sales in the USA made up 23% of unit sales for the first six months of this year, while hardcover’s accounted for 25% and paperbacks 42% of sales.

By Dennis Abrams

Ebook bundlingNew statistics from Nielsen Books & Consumer show that ebooks were outsold by both hardcovers AND paperbacks in the first half of 2014.

According to the survey, ebook sales made up 23% of unit sales for the first six months of this year, while hardcover’s accounted for 25% and paperbacks 42% of sales. So not only did overall print book sales outsell ebooks, both hardcovers and paperbacks outsold e-books as well.

At the Huffington Post, Claire Fallon noted that:

“Given the explosive growth of e-book sales since the launch of the Kindle in 2007, with increases in the triple digits for several years, many expected the paper book industry to remain in retreat for the foreseeable future. Recently, however, eBook gains seem to have stabilized with hardcover and paperback books still comfortably dominant. In 2013, sales growth for eBooks slowed to single digits, and the new numbers from Nielsen suggest the leveling off was no anomaly.”

At Electric Literature, Lincoln Michel wrote that this means that publishers and readers will live in a world where paper books and ebooks can live together in harmony:

“The fact that print is still the dominant format with 67% combined unite sales in 2014 seems to suggest that the market has roughly stabilized. That print books are would be the majority of the market was hardly a sure bet even a few years ago. Many critics and pundits were certain that ebooks would dominate the market in as little as 5-10 years. However, we are 7 years removed from the first Kindle and ebook growth has slowed dramatically. A 67% unit sales means that paper books have an even more commanding share of dollars spent, since ebooks are much cheaper than hardcovers and cheaper than paperbacks on average. I wrote an essay to this effect a couple weeks ago, and it is nice to see the new data supports it.

“Print lovers will surely rejoice at this news. But I’d say this is good news for everybody, not just print lovers. Different formats have different strengths, and it is a great thing that there is a healthy eBook market and a healthy print market. The so-called “format wars” may turn out not to be a war at all. Instead, we may see that the various formats can work together to expand literature and create more readers and markets.”

Is it time to finally disbelieve the hype that ebooks will kill off print? Agree or disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments. 

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.