When I talk with people about e-books, and especially about the growth (in percentages) and the expectations, I always state that we Dutch are three years behind on the US. This has two reasons. The first is the simple fact that we started selling e-books three years later than the US did (they started in 2006, we in 2009), the other is that we seem to follow the exact same trend (market share in percentages) as the US did in their first years. In fact, we are probably doing a better job.
Which is interesting, because the two markets couldn’t be more different. The most prominent difference is the almost opposite bookstore landscape. Where the US has (or should I say: had) very few bookstores per capita, the Netherlands has a relatively large number. So in the US you have to travel a great distance to visit one, for us there is one (or more) in every city. No matter how small it is. Which explains the almost instant success (in usage at least, in the first years) of Amazon. Because they made it possible for everyone to easily buy books. Which accelerated again with the introduction of the Kindle Reader and e-books. In The Netherlands, the e-book ecosystem is very fragmented. Which, in my opinion, slows the potential growth of digital. So, with that in mind, we following the digital trend of the US, and probably even better than that, is interesting to say the least.
Until now, this were only assumptions. But that this really is the case, can finally be proven well-founded, because Mike Shatzkin, in one of his latest blogposts, published an overview of the growth of the share of e-books (in percentages relative to the total) in trade publishing. This made it possible for me to draw up a comparison between the US and The Netherlands on a year to year basis, and so, to see if my statements of the last few years were actually true.
In this comparison, there are two assumptions made. And they both relate to the numbers for 2012. The year is not over yet, and so there has to be made an assumption about the final sprint in sales. I call it a sprint deliberately, because the holiday-season (especially just after Christmas) shows additional e-book sales year over year. That’s why both Mike and I made an assumption of what the percentage will be like when it’s December 31st. And where the US has a flattening growth (and so a more conservative final percentage), over here it’s accelerating (and therefore a more optimistic percentage). By now, we are on/around 3%, but it wouldn’t surprise me that this rises to 5% by the end of the year. In the most conservative case it won’t, but then we are still (just) above the trend of the US.
E-books in US trade publishing (year, %, growth)
2007: 0,5% (5x)
2008: 1% (2x)
2009: 3% (3x)
2010: 8% (2,7x)
2011: 20% (2,5x)
2012: 30% (0,5x)
E-books in NL trade publishing (year, %, growth)
2010: 0,7% (3x)
2011: 1,6% (2,4x)
2012: 5% (3x)