Although e-book sales have plateaued or declined for most major publishers in the U.S. and U.K. in the past few years, e-book sales are growing for other publishers and especially self-publishers, Gareth Cuddy, founder and CEO of Vearsa, argued last week, the Bookseller reported. At the FutureBook Conference in London on December 4, Cuddy said a "huge, untracked shadow industry" of indie authors meant e-book sales were growing overall, despite the illusion of a plateau created by the higher prices and dwindling market share of traditional publishers.
According to Cuddy, an analysis of the top 10,000 e-books published in May 2015 showed that 27% of them, at an average price of $8.22, came from the top five traditional publishers, while 73%, at an average of $4.58, came from other sources. A similar survey in November 2015 showed just 18% came from the top five and the average price had risen to $9.47. The cost of the other 82% fell to $4.57. Also, e-book sales grew faster outside of Amazon and Apple at retailers like Scribd, Google, Chegg and Baker & Taylor.
"The e-book demand remains but the playing field has shifted," Cuddy said. "Growth is possible but requires the right strategy."
Also on the panel, called "Who's Afraid of the E-book Plateau? Understanding the new consumer," Jo Henry of Nielson said Nielsen's Books and Consumer Survey indicated e-book sales had dropped 3% from 2014 to 2015. Though, as Cuddy pointed out, "[t]he plateau affects mainly tier one publishers. Other markets and non top-tier retailers have much stronger growth."
Self-published e-books make up 10%–15% of Kobo sales, according to Kobo's Dave Anderson. To reward the voracious 10% of readers who account for 50% of Kobo sales, the company recently launched its Kobo Super Points program, to which 30,000 customers have already subscribed.