Estimates show that 191 million e-books were sold in the United States in 2020, according to the most recently available data. Precise figures on e-book sales are difficult to gather due to smaller publishers and major retailers such as Amazon being missed from sales data, and other factors such as the varying methodologies sources use to track and measure the market. For example, whilst figures for 2016 and 2017 are lower than the immediately preceding years, it was noted that figures for these years only included around 450 publishers.
E-books in the U.S.
E-book sales revenue in the United States fluctuates, and like unit sales, is prone to readjustments and changes in measurement. The best and most accurate estimates place revenue at over one billion U.S. dollars, the highest recorded so far but only a small improvement from the numbers given for 2017 and 2018. Expenditure on digital book readers also wavers, tending to hover between 19 and 25 U.S. dollars per year. In 2013, annual spending on e-readers averaged over 30 U.S. dollars, but the number has not reached that level again since, suggesting that such devices have already lost ground as consumers instead opt to use their smartphones for on-the-go media consumption.
Book fans all across the United States read e-books, though data on e-book readers by urbanity shows that consumers in rural parts of the country are less likely to engage with the format than those living in urban and suburban areas. Survey data on print and digital book readership highlights the continued preference for print, with only a small number of consumers exclusively reading digital books. However, growing numbers of book readers favor a combination of print and digital books, which is good news for publishers branching out beyond traditional formats but still wanting to produce printed books.
Estimated number of e-books sold in the United States from 2010 to 2020
(in million units)
Data for years 2010 to 2015 was published in 2016 and included sales of titles with ISBNs and was measured by Nielsen Bookscan and PubTrack Digital (prior to takeover by NPD Group).
Data for 2016 to 2020 was published in 2021 and was measured by NPD Bookscan and Pub Track Digital.
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Publishers Weekly. (January 29, 2021). Estimated number of e-books sold in the United States from 2010 to 2020 (in million units) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/426799/e-book-unit-sales-usa/
Publishers Weekly. "Estimated number of e-books sold in the United States from 2010 to 2020 (in million units)." Chart. January 29, 2021. Statista. Accessed June 28, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/426799/e-book-unit-sales-usa/
Publishers Weekly. (2021). Estimated number of e-books sold in the United States from 2010 to 2020 (in million units). Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: June 28, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/426799/e-book-unit-sales-usa/
Publishers Weekly. "Estimated Number of E-books Sold in The United States from 2010 to 2020 (in Million Units)." Statista, Statista Inc., 29 Jan 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/426799/e-book-unit-sales-usa/
Publishers Weekly, Estimated number of e-books sold in the United States from 2010 to 2020 (in million units) Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/426799/e-book-unit-sales-usa/ (last visited June 28, 2022)