Since March 2020, PublishDrive has been generating digital book sales reports, compiling hard-to-find data from various outlets, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play Books, libraries, regional stores, and more. They have now published their stats for April and May, months that saw much of the world’s population in lockdown.
The graph below presents the increase in sales in April (red bar) and May 2020 (blue bar) compared to the same months last year. One notable conclusion is that sales have increased for every single outlet, in some cases as much as almost 300%.
Which genres are doing great?
Not all genres are as successful, though. Specifically, non-fiction, fantasy, science-fiction, and thriller genres are doing great. Surprisingly, perhaps, some popular genres like romance and erotica saw a slight decrease in April (but made it back to the top in May). Here is the complete list:
Interestingly, genre popularity differed significantly across countries and outlets:
International sales of English titles did especially well:
The US and UK are the top countries based on sales value, with sales increasing month by month. Other countries also stand out: New Zealand, Belgium, Netherlands, and more. If you are interested in a more detailed country analysis, download PublishDrive’s free report based on April 2020’s book sales data.
Book royalties sources
Book royalties come from different sources today, not just from selling one copy to a consumer. Typically, these sources can be categorized:
- Retail: Major outlets that reach global readers with the usual one copy purchase business model. E.g. Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play Books, and Kobo.
- Subscription services: Usually applications or stores that provide unlimited access to books in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. E.g. Scribd, Bookmate, and Dreame. A surprising amount of royalties come from these.
- Digital library providers: Book borrowing for not just individuals, but institutions like public libraries, schools, universities, or corporate libraries. E.g. OverDrive, Bibliotheca, Mackin, and Odilo.
- Regional stores: Outlets that cover a specific region that serves the local community. E.g. Tolion, Chinese stores, Hungarian outlets, and German network. Regional stores grew significantly by 136%, telling us that people looked to local stores for digital books first.
To me, the main takeaway is that digital book sales are doing great at the moment. During the shutdown, people want more at-home entertainment, prioritizing digital means to get them. Things like movie-streaming services, video games, and books are seeing a significant boom. This trend was dominant in March and April, and in May the trend continues.
However, it will be interesting to see how much of this growth was due to COVID-19 lockdowns and how sustainable it is. Based on a PublishDrive mid-month report, book sales are still looking strong in June compared to last year with an estimated 50% growth. Watch this space and check out the full post on PublishDrive for more data!
A lot of interesting data. Wish I had some representation in the list; but as they say in those lottery ads, you have to play to win. In this case, you have to publish. Got stuff in the hopper–need to get it done and out. 🙂
Sorry it took me so long to respond, John; I’ve been away. And yes, we all wish we had more representation on the list!!
This is very interesting, Nicholas. Amazon was also offering a lot of children’s books for free [audio books not ebooks]. I am very pleased to see this and will see if it benefited me when I get my next royalty statements.
That’s interesting. I sure hope it has benefited you – a lot 🙂
I’ve only had my books on Amazon, but I’ve noticed an increase in sales. At the beginning of the pandemic, my sales dropped, then April and May a noticeable increase. June for me hasn’t been as strong. Perhaps that could be the US started prematurely opening in June.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Charles! Yes, the premature opening may have a lot to do with that.