On Wednesday, I asked where the AAP numbers were and on Thursday, when I wasn't blogging, they were released. Also on Thursday, Amazon put out an announcement about ebooks. Here are the press releases:
I don't think I chopped off Amazon's URL but who knows.
Anyway. AAP's release was a combination of the March 2011 numbers and an announcement:
"Next week, a new annual survey capturing the size and scope of the total U.S. publishing industry will be unveiled. The first-ever report, produced from net sales and unit data provided by more than 1100 publishers, reflects the transformational changes in the dynamic industry and has been designed to support publishers’ strategic priorities."
This is underlined in the press release and there's an advisory at the top about it as well. Next week = May 24, the same day B&N is set to announce a new e-reader, all associated with BEA. (If you're having trouble keeping up, AAP is a trade association of publishers. B&N is Barnes & Noble. BEA BookExpo America, a book publishing/selling trade show, formerly known as ABA.)
Amazon's numbers are very simple to summarize.
"Since April 1, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher."
The AAP numbers emphasize seasonality of ebook sales:
"According to publishers, these figures are consistent with seasonal buying patterns; in particular, a return to print editions after the post-holiday period of buying, or “loading,” of e-Books into e-reader devices."
Extracting additional information from earlier press releases, here's what I get in round numbers (millions):
Jan 32 70
Feb ~30 90
Mar 28 69
I'm prepared to believe I made an error; if you find one, please tell me so I can correct it.
These numbers do depict seasonality in ebook sales over the time period in question (first quarter of the year). But if I were focused on print publishing, it is not a seasonality I would find particularly reassuring. I believe that coverage which reproduces the assertion of seasonality without pointing out the _wild_ distortion of 2011 compared to the quite mild perturbation of 2010 is crappy coverage: it's press release journalism, where you just let the interested party write your article for you and slap your name on it and move on to the next item.
Every month I look at this stuff, I'm more and more tempted to try to get the full data set for the last couple years. It _looks_ like paper books are enjoying a small portion of the slow economic recovery, however, it looks to me (based on the limited numbers the AAP chooses to release) like publishing is so sensitive to the effects of individual best sellers that it's hard to know for sure.
Comparing Amazon's April numbers to AAP's March numbers is not something I'm prepared to do. I'll be interested to see the April numbers out of AAP in 3-4 weeks to make the comparison then. I'll probably also feel compelled to say something about the May 24 release from the Book Industry Study Group, but I won't be happy about it.