walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Simba, Professional and Scholarly Books, Size of Pie

This statement caught my eye in Erik Sherman's entertaining survey of numbers involving ebooks.

According to Simba, "professional and scholarly books, which include the legal, scientific/technical, medical and business segments, hold 75.9% of the $1.76 billion U.S. E-book market."

I'm working on a framework for making sense of ebook numbers. I'm going to deploy that, starting with, what's the size of that pie and, what's _in_ that pie.

AAP numbers are the ones trade publishers look at. Simba is trying to make the point that trade isn't the big part of the e-book pie. If you want to read Simba's report, you have to shell out beaucoup bucks for the privilege, and while I'm quite dedicated to mocking lame coverage, I'm not (yet) _that_ dedicated. Let's start with a quickie sanity check.

Here are the 2010 numbers from AAP:


E-books in AAP totaled $441.3M in 2010.
Professional books in AAP (unspecified whether this is pbooks, ebooks or both) totaled $812.9M

Let's compare $812.9 to .76*1.76 billion. Oh, look: it is substantially less. AAP numbers are about a smaller pie than Simba and one of drastically different composition (specifically, I suspect that a lot of the libraries referred to in the Simba press release are law libraries or medical libraries -- not public libraries in the sense we are mostly accustomed to).

This is a point where Sherman's analysis is weak.


"When such companies as Amazon or Barnes & Noble (BKS) claim that e-book sales have overtaken paperbacks or hard covers, would that include these very expensive titles?"

No. The kinds of publications that Simba must have been including are not sold any place you are likely to recognize unless you buy those books and if you buy those books, you know that Sherman's question is misguided. For example, the Collier Consumer Bankruptcy Practice Guide is available for sale through Lexis Nexis for $337 in a format compatible with the kindle, but is not available through the kindle store. I feel _slightly_ bad saying Amazon doesn't carry the kinds of titles that Simba is including in their pie, because Practising Law Institute DOES list a lot (perhaps all) of their titles in the kindle store, and PLI is a recognized CLE provider.

It only took me 10 minutes to track down and document the above information, however, I had to know ahead of time what to look for (no, I did not know about PLI when I started, but I knew how to find some professional titles in the kindle store because I'd seen them before -- and knew they were comparatively unusual; no, I did not know that LexisNexis ran an online storefront selling kindle professional titles for CLE until I did a little googling). If you would like to play this game a little more yourself, check this out:


This is actually sort of interesting, since my lawyer sister-in-law (the one who is not a law professor) has to transport through greater NYC trains and so forth a truly heinous load of law stuff including books. It was causing her back problems for a while (altho that's going better now) -- exactly the kind of thing that makes us all want high school students to have their textbooks in electronic format. So here's hoping over the long haul, professionals have e-everything to save their backs.
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