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PwC: the U.S. consumer ebook market will be bigger than the print book market by 2017

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Lots of different outlets are trying to project the size of the U.S. ebook market and how fast it’s growing. In its annual “Entertainment & Media Outlook,” set to be released Wednesday, PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) estimates that trade (consumer, not educational or academic) ebooks will drive $8.2 billion in sales by 2017 — surpassing projected print book sales, which it thinks will shrink by more than half during that period.

Here’s how the firm thinks the trade print and ebook markets are going to evolve. Note that figures are projected from 2012 onwards.

The total size of the trade book industry, PwC estimated, will be $16.1 billion by 2017 — smaller than it was in 2008, with ebooks not quite able to pick up the slack as the print market shrinks.

PwC also projects that ebooks will make up 38 percent of all book sales — both trade and educational books — by 2017, from 16 percent today.

Wondering how this compares to BookStats?

PwC’s projections are roughly in line with those from other sources. The most recent edition of BookStats pegged the total size of the U.S. trade book industry at $15.05 billion in 2012, with ebooks kicking in $3.04 billion of that. PwC, meanwhile, calculates the size of the market at $15.2 billion in 2012, with ebooks contributing $3.35 billion. But BookStats thinks that the market grew by 6.9 percent between 2011 and 2012, while PwC thinks it shrank by 1.3 percent.

If you’re wondering which one to trust more, keep in mind that they are both projections and that it’s worth looking at methodology: BookStats incorporates net sales revenue and unit data from nearly 2,000 U.S. publishers, then projects the size of the entire industry; PwC says that it looks at “retail spending by consumers on consumer books…and spending on books in electronic formats” and that it derives historical data “principally from confidential and proprietary sources” — including research group Informa Telecoms & Media — then projects.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Thomas Bethge

3 Responses to “PwC: the U.S. consumer ebook market will be bigger than the print book market by 2017”

  1. Devan Simpson

    So what? So what stock(s) should I buy to participate in this growth???? Help me convert this info into $ n my pocket. Thank you.

  2. Thomas Hogan

    What is missing from this discussion is pricing. The reason the book industry will shrink in terms of total revenue is, in a nutshell, Amazon. Where a printed book might cost $20, Amazon has orchestrated ebook pricing to favor books under $10. The number of copies sold will likely grow, but ebook pricing will keep revenue flat or falling.

  3. David Thomas

    Great break LHO — and good advice on trusting numbers. The PwC data ”principally from confidential and proprietary sources” sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo to add some juice to to their report value.

    I don’t believe BookStats goes into predictive projections, only contemporary snapshots. I could be wrong on that.

    No one should be surprised that the pace of digital overtaking the physical format is on a longer time scale than music and video: the book has several centuries of entrenched utility versus recordings. Also, both music and video had a long bridge period on disks that few seem to remember.