In 2021, e-book revenue in the United States reached 1.1 billion U.S. dollars, the same as the figure recorded in the previous year, suggesting a halt in growth. Although this figure remained substantially lower than revenue derived from hardback, paperback, and mass market books, data on e-book sales does not yet include figures from independent authors. If these were to be included, the e-book arm of the U.S. book market would look very different, but nevertheless, sources reporting e-book sales figures observed growth over the last few years.
E-book sales in the U.S.
An estimated 191 million e-books were sold in the United States in 2020, demonstrating consistent annual increases since 2018. Again, given that numbers from major retailers like Amazon and smaller indie publishers were not provided, it is difficult to build a full picture of the overall number of unit sales, but trends suggest that the figure will continue to rise. A separate study revealed that the compound annual growth rate of e-book revenue climbed by over 13 percent in the United States between 2010 and 2020, a positive sign for the U.S. book market and e-book publishers alike.
Spanish-language e-book sales revenue is also climbing and reached 10.91 million euros (approximately 11.3 million U.S. dollars) in 2021. Revenue grew each year between 2016 and 2021 except for a small drop in 2017, with the United States ranking among the biggest Spanish-language e-book markets worldwide. Whilst Spain accounted for the majority of global Spanish e-book sales revenue, the United States made up 9.5 percent of the total, the same share as Chile, Argentina, and Colombia combined.
Although a 2021 survey established that the most read book format in the United States was still print, e-books ranked second, with 30 percent of respondents preferring them to print or audiobooks. The share of adults who reported having read an e-book in the last year tends to fluctuate but remained between 20 and 30 percent from 2012 onwards, whereas audiobook listening was less common among survey participants.
A global report covering the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany revealed that the main e-book purchasing channel was Amazon, with over 60 percent of respondents from each country reporting buying e-books there. The study also found that U.S. consumers were the most inclined to use Apple eBooks Store/iTunes and other online marketplaces, and, like respondents from the UK and Germany, tended not to purchase directly from the publisher.
Data on digital publishing revenue in the United States confirmed that e-books are the healthiest aspect of the industry, far outperforming digital newspapers and magazines in that respect. Forecasts suggest that e-book publishing revenue could approach 5.4 billion U.S. dollars by 2027, almost double revenue derived from digital papers. If this comes to pass, this could spell good news for the U.S. book market, and if consumers continue to enjoy the format in tandem with traditional printed books, e-books could have a prosperous future.
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