February 2017 Big, Bad, Wide & International Report: covering Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo ebook sales in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

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Print bookselling remains artificially silo’d by country even today, for variety of legacy historical and logistical reasons. But by contrast, the global ebook marketplace is a seamlessly international one.

For authors, selling an ebook to a reader in a different country is just as easy as selling to a reader in your home country. Barriers to reaching an international audience no longer exist.

Today, with the click of a button, any author can start selling any title they wish simultaneously in 12 country-specific Amazon stores, 36 country-specific Kobo ebook stores, and over 40 country-specific Apple ebook stores.

As of yet, most of these non-English-language ebook markets are still fairly early-stage. But that’s not true of the four other major English-language markets outside the US. In those markets, too, as we’ll see, a substantial share of all new-book purchases has already gone digital. And, as we’ll also see, untracked, non-traditional suppliers make up a high percentage of ebook sales in those countries as well. Which means that these other digital markets have also been consistently underestimated and under-reported by traditional publishing-industry statistics.

Back in November 2015, we did a deep dive into Amazon UK. In examining how sales in the world’s second-largest English-language market broke down by publisher type, we saw firsthand the large nontraditional share of that market. And in October 2015, when we looked beyond Amazon.com to characterize US ebook sales at Apple, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, and Google, too, our “wide” report validated that indie self-publishing wasn’t just a massive market sector at only one ebook retailer, but rather represented an industry-wide trend.

However, both of those reports are already more than a year old. Since then, we’ve substantially overhauled and refined our AuthorEarnings methodology.  We can now measure each retailer’s total sales in each country with far more precision.

So this time, we rolled up our sleeves and basically went for the whole enchilada:

  • The top five English-language countries
  • The fifteen largest ebook stores
  • 750,000 top-selling ebook titles, in all genres and categories.
  • All of it calibrated against 700,000 points of raw, unfiltered daily sales data, from over 20,000 distinct ebook titles across all 15 stores.

When we were done, we were looking at the most comprehensive international picture of English-language ebook sales available anywhere. And now, we’re excited to share it with authors everywhere around the world.

Total Ebook Sales by Country (Top 5 English-Language Markets)


Population Reported
Print Book Sales
(annual units)
Ebook Sales
(annual units)
Ebooks as
% of
all book sales
  U.S.A.   325,700,000  675,000,000  487,298,000  42%
  U.K.     65,400,000 187,500,000  95,623,000  34%
  Canada     36,500,000  50,500,000  26,017,000  34%
  Australia     24,500,000  56,400,000  22,463,000  28%
  New Zealand       4,600,000  5,300,000  *1,306,000  20%*
  5-Country Total:  456,700,000  974,700,000  632,707,000  39%

*(New Zealand ebook total only includes Apple & Kobo stores; Because Amazon has no country-specific store for New Zealand, Kindle ebooks are purchased in NZ through Amazon.com and thus included in the US total)

Of particularly interest is how each country’s ebook sales are divided up among the different retail channels.

Total Ebook Unit Sales by Country and Retail Channel


(The relative size of each pie reflects total sales volume for that country)

Amazon Apple
Kobo Barnes&Noble
  U.S.A.   406,000,000  44,041,000  1,246,000  19,395,000
  U.K.   84,029,000 7,201,000  1,132,000  –
  Canada     14,892,000  3,760,000  6,479,000  –
  Australia     13,604,000  6,694,000  1,399,000  –
  New Zealand       *  831,000  416,000  –
  5-Country Total:  518,526,000  62,527,000  10,672,000  19,395,000
  % of Total:  82%  10%  2%  3%
  • Unsurprisingly, Amazon is the majority retailer in just about every market.
  • But in Canada and Australia, Amazon is a lot less dominant than in the US and the UK.
  • Taken all together, Amazon accounts for more than 80% of English-language ebook purchases, Apple another 10%, Kobo 2% and Nook 3%
  • The remaining 3%–ascribed to GooglePlay and all remaining channels–is most likely overly optimistic. Their true share might well be even lower.

(If you’re comparing retailer breakdowns for the US against our October 2015 “wide” report, note that that report mistakenly used global Kobo sales totals instead of US-only totals. We’ve rectified that here. We hope that no one making the comparison will misinterpret it as a drop in Kobo’s actual market size or share. If anything, we think Kobo has actually grown some since then.)

Total Ebook Consumer $ Dollar Sales by Country and Retail Channel


In total consumer $ dollar spending terms, Amazon’s ebook dominance is slightly less pronounced than it is in unit terms.  But we were still surprised to see that nearly 80% of consumer dollars spent on ebooks in the US now go through Amazon.

Our focus, however, is always take-home author earnings, rather than gross consumer dollars. And authors choosing different publishing paths are banking a very different share of the gross dollars consumers are spending on their titles–ranging from 17.5% to 70%–depending on how they chose to publish. So, naturally, we’re most interested in how ebook sales in each country, and at each retailer, break down by publisher type:

Ebook Unit Sales in Each Country Broken Down by Publisher Type


As always,

  • blue bands (at the bottom of each bar) represent ebook sales in each market by Self-Published Indie Authors
  • red bands represent ebook sales by Small/Medium Traditional Publishers: i.e. the combined sales of all traditional publishers other than the “Big Five”
  • green bands represent ebook sales by Amazon Imprints: Montlake, Thomas & Mercer, Skyscape, Little A, AmazonCrossing, etc.
  • purple bands represent ebook sales by imprints of the Big Five Trade Publishers: PenguinRandomHouse, HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon&Schuster, and Macmillan.
  • cyan bands (at the top of each bar) represent Uncategorized Single-Author Imprints: the vast majority of which are also self-published indie authors creating their own imprint names, but we haven’t taken the time to verify each individually as a self-publisher.

(for the curious, here’s more detail on how we classify each author & publisher into one of these five categories).

Our main takeaways from the above chart:

  • Self-published indie authors are verifiably capturing at least 24% – 34% of all ebook sales in each of the five English-language markets; it’s not just a US-only phenomenon. When you also include the uncategorized authors, the vast majority of whom are also self-published, the true indie share in each market lies somewhere between 30% – 40%.
  • Indies are competing particularly well in the Canadian and Australian ebook markets, nearly approaching the level of dominance they currently hold in the US.
  • The Big Five, on the other hand, are letting themselves progressively get squeezed out of nearly every English-Language ebook market. They make up only 38% of Canadian ebook purchases, and that’s the country where they are holding their ground best; in the US, the Big Five now account for barely 26% of all ebook sales.
  • Amazon Imprints have made the most market headway in the US. Despite being single-retailer exclusive to Amazon Kindle, the dozen or so Amazon “house” publishing imprints between them account for 14% of all US ebook sales, 10% of all UK ebook sales, and 8% of Australian ebook sales. In Canada, the Amazon Imprint footprint is a much more modest 3% of all ebook sales, largely due to the substantial shares of the overall Candian ebook market held by Kobo (25%) and Apple (14%).

Ebook Unit Sales at Each Retailer Broken Down by Publisher Type


Our main takeaways from the above chart:

  • Self-published indie authors are verifiably capturing at least 20% – 35% of all multi-country ebook sales at each retailer. When you also include the uncategorized authors, each retailer’s true multi-country indie share lies somewhere between 25% – 42%, with Amazon staking out the high end at 42% and B&N and Apple holding the low end at 25%.
  • The Big Five have managed to hang on to more than half of all ebook sales at Apple and Barnes & Noble Nook. At B&N, in particular, their share tops 61%, but that merely makes them the largest fish in a rapidly-shrinking pond. (B&N’s overall ebook sales have contracted dramatically over the past few years, to where they are now make up less than 4% of the US total (or 3% of the five-country total)).

*As a side note, in comparing these new US retailer market-share breakdowns to our data from October 2015, indie market share has grown a little since then at Apple, Kobo, and Amazon (even after Amazon’s sharp 2016 May-Oct indie drop). At B&N, However, indie share has actually contracted (leaving indies there with a reduced slice of the now much-smaller B&N pie).

One fascinating consequence of all of the above is how differently each type of publisher sees their own ebook sales “pie” split across the various retailer channels:

Ebook Unit Sales by Publisher Type, Broken Down by Retail Channel

(The relative size of each pie reflects the total ebook sales volume for that publisher category)


(The relative size of each pie reflects the total ebook sales volume for that publisher category)

  • Due to the Big Five’s disproportionately small share of Amazon’s ebook sales, only 70% of Big Five sales are through Amazon, while 30% of Big Five sales come through the other retailers, which together comprise less than 20% of the broader ebook market.
  • On the other hand, indie self-published sales go disproportionately through Amazon, with that retailer making up 91% of all self-published ebook sales.

However, that 91% for indie self-published sales is somewhat misleading, as it lumps together the sales of Amazon-exclusive indie titles in “Kindle Select” with the sales of indie titles that are available “wide” at all retailers.

To provide greater insight, let’s separate the sales of Amazon-exclusive indie titles from those of “wide” indie titles, proportionately dividing the blue indie pie at the left of the chart into the two pies below:


(Again, the relative size of each pie reflects the total ebook sales volume for that publisher category)

Should Indies Go “Wide” or Amazon-Exclusive?

Indie authors often struggle with the choice of whether to make a particular title a KindleUnlimited-enrolled Amazon-exclusive or to sell it at all retailers. For those authors, the breakdown of indie sales on the left side of the above chart is a particularly interesting one. But it’s worth keeping in mind that around half of the “Kindle Select” indie sales are actually full-read-equivalent KindleUnlimited payments to indies, rather than straight retail purchases.

So let’s now break those KU full-read equivalents out separately, as shown as yellow pie-wedges in the two charts below:



So what do the above graphs tell us about KindleUnlimited and indie author earnings?

The breakdown of indie dollar author earnings looks nearly identical to the unit-sales splits shown above. KindleUnlimited indie page reads (at a current run rate of $180M+/yr) are now paying Amazon-exclusive indie authors far more total dollars than “wide” indie authors are earning from their sales at all non-Amazon ebook retailers combined (a total run rate of roughly $50M/yr in non-Amazon indie author earnings).

But at the same time, limiting a given title to Amazon exclusivity will:

  • reduce the impact of external marketing and promotion efforts for that title
  • make it harder to secure BookBub ads and the like
  • reduce the virality of reader word-of-mouth referrals
  • mean giving up 5x as many parallel opportunities for retailer promotional featuring and acceptance into retailer outreach programs, any one of which can give a title a substantial visibility or sales boost.
  • if a title appeals to Canadian or Australian audiences, it will be unavailable in the retailer channels where almost half of those countries’ ebook purchases occur

“Wide” authors who are able to effectively take advantage of promotional opportunities at other retailers often see far more than the a quarter of their sales coming through non-Amazon channels; some high profile indies are doing so well at other retailers that Amazon now represents less than half of their sales.

It’s also worth considering what happened sometime between May 2016 and October 2016, when indies experienced a sharp quarter-to-quarter downturn in KindleUnlimited page reads and an overall drop in retail sales for Amazon indie authors. After growing consistently every quarter for nearly 3 years, we saw indie market share at Amazon US suddenly plunge from 44% to 36% of Amazon’s total unit sales. While things appear to have stabilized now, and indie market share is once again growing–but more slowly now–at Amazon, relying upon a single retailer for 100% of one’s sales means an author is far more likely to see sudden, dramatic shifts and reversals in their own individual fortunes.

So for indies contemplating whether to go “wide” with a title or enroll it in Kindle Select as an Amazon exclusive, there’s still no easy answer. (Sorry.)

Putting all one’s eggs in the same basket, even if it is a big basket, carries unique risks. There is a strong case to be made for diversification of an author’s sales across different retail channels for that reason alone.

At the same time, KindleUnlimited has grown into a Top-3 ebook retail channel in its own right; KU is now paying indie authors twice as many dollars as Barnes&Noble’s Nook is paying to all publishers combined. To completely ignore a retail channel of that size makes zero sense.

The best strategy for an indie author seems to be to keep some of their titles in wide release, have some in KindleUnlimited, and experiment with what combination works best and generates the most income. Luckily, the exclusivity decision for each title can be revisited every 3 months, allowing indie authors to be reactive when their sales to take off at a particular “wide” retailer.


Our look at the wider world of ebook retailers tells us that the rise of ebook sales in general, and indie publishing in particular, are not limited to the US nor to a single retailer (Amazon); they are international, industry-wide phenomena. The US currently leads the world in both ebook penetration rate and the indie share of that market, but other ebook markets are starting to catch up: particularly the other 4 major English-language ones. Taken together, ebook sales in these 4 additional markets add a combined 25% to the US-only total.

And, somewhat counter-intuitively, self-published indie authors are proving to be far more capable of taking advantage of their global digital reach to achieving commensurate international sales than traditionally published authors are.

Back in our October 2015 UK report, we made the then-surprising (to us) discovery that best-selling indie authors in the US were far more likely to also be best sellers in the UK than their best-selling traditionally published US counterparts. The same held true in the opposite direction as well, with best selling UK indies outperforming best selling traditionally published UK authors when it comes to their cross-Atlantic sales in the US market.

In the comments on that report, noted author and author-advocate Harry Bingham explained the reasons behind this apparent discrepancy far better than we could. Here’s what he said:

1) Writers will be published by different publishers in either territory.(or, even if part of the same corporate machine, one that operates with effective independence from its sister companies.)

2) In both cases, sales strategies will be print-led in the first instance, and most examples of Big 5 e-successes will be very largely reflecting an original success in print (and the media opportunities which are so often exclusive to print successes.)

3) Publishers fail to meet budgetary expectations with most trade fiction – let’s say, 7 in 10. They only have a real success with maybe 1 in 10.

4) Those things can’t be – and aren’t – predictable in advance. They may be dependent on such things as cover design, the choices made by key retail buyers (who won’t in most cases have read the book in question, &c). In other words, there’s a high degree of chance – as well as author quality – in what determines a print success. Given that print-retail slots are scarce and book shelf lives are small, you just can’t rely on quality alone to get you through.

5) So what your data shows is exactly what we’d expect. Publishers spin the wheel in both territories. If they get lucky in one territory, that luck doesn’t translate particularly well to others. So you’re seeing a reversion to the mean effect – a print success (and hence e-success) in the UK just doesn’t affect the US odds very much and vice versa.

6) Indie-authors aren’t ruled by the gods of the print world, so there’s less random chance involved The bookshelves are infinite, books are forever, quality (in design, marketing as well as writing) had a much higher chance of determining outcomes.

As he explains it, the seeming oddity now makes perfect sense.

In practice, it’s true that the very topmost handful of decades-old traditionally published mega brand names do indeed see their titles launched internationally to great effect across all markets. These long-established megasellers such as Patterson, Roberts, King, Baldacci, and Rowling (who, incidentally, held on to her digital rights and self-published her ebooks and audiobooks through her own Pottermore imprint) are truly international best sellers in every book format. But below that top fraction of 1% who receive coordinated international releases and global marketing campaigns for their titles, most traditionally published authors are lucky to become best sellers in a single market only, if ever at all. And this goes doubly for authors of genre fiction, where the overwhelming majority of all consumer purchases (over 70% of them) are now in ebook format.

The larger the proportion of sales in an author’s genre that are now digital, the more of a disadvantage being traditionally published seems to impose upon authors hoping to also achieve significant ebook sales outside one’s home country.

One of the other interesting implications of this is that authors in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have the most to gain by indie-publishing their digital editions. For them, the overwhelmingly largest market for their books lies overseas–and it’s one where they absolutely cannot afford to be handicapped by a traditional publisher’s local-market-oriented, print-first focus.

And Finally… a Brief Look At How Amazon US Ebook Sales are Trending in Early 2017

Pulling together data for this 5-country, 15-retailer report meant collecting and incorporating a early-2017 dataset from Amazon.com US: the largest ebook retailer of them all. Amazon US alone comprised 65% of all unit sales and 64% of all consumer dollars in our entire 5-country, 15-retailer dataset. A deep dive into just the 2017 Amazon US data is something we’ll save for another day. But we’ll share the following updated trend graph:


And we’ll tease a few interesting findings:

  • Between early 2016 and early 2017, overall Amazon US ebook sales grew another 4%

While that’s not the kind of double-digit (or triple-digit) growth we had seen in the earlier days of the ebook era, it’s still more than enough to offset the ongoing shrinkage at Barnes&Noble’s Nook. In other words, albeit slowly now, the overall US ebook market is still growing.

  • Indie ebook market share, after the sudden sharp drop that we reported in October 2016, seems to have bounced back a little in early 2017.

It’s too early to conclude whether this is simply a plateau or the beginnings of a new phase in indie market share growth. We’ll be curious to see which direction things head as we move deeper into 2017.

  • Amazon Imprints’ market share continues its steady climb.

Amazon Publishing’s growing share of all Amazon ebook sales is a fascinating, and somewhat unsettling, trend to watch.

  • Big Five ebook market share, on the other hand, after a brief flirtation with recovery in October 2016, has fallen precipitously once again in early 2017, to just 20.8%.

As of February, titles published by the Big Five made up just 20.8%–or barely one fifth–of all Amazon US consumer ebook purchases.

And finally:

  • “Small/Medium Traditional Publishers,” as a cohort, have continued their slow, steady climb in unit market share, but their share of total consumer $ dollars spent on ebooks is rising far faster.

In fact, per the below trend graph charting the shift in consumer $ spending, we can see that for the first time “Small/Medium Traditional Publishers” are capturing more total consumer dollars than the Big Five.


That represents a wildly dramatic shift in fortune for non-Big Five traditional publishers; three years ago, their combined $ ebook sales were less than half of what the Big Five’s were.

But keep in mind that our “Small/Medium Traditional Publisher” category lumps together many disparate types of publisher, from the smallest micropresses to the non-Big Five traditional giants like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Scholastic, from traditional university and academic presses to newer, digital-first publishers like Open Road Media. Not all of these different types of publishers that make up our “Small/Medium Traditional Publisher” category are seeing this rapid sales growth; in fact, quite the contrary.

We’ll save a more detailed breakdown of the Small/Medium Publisher category for a future report, but we’ll say this:

Almost all of the recent “Small/Medium Publisher” gains appear to be driven exclusively by one particular narrow subcategory of publishers, which is now seeing explosive growth in their ebook sales.

Hint: it’s not whom you think… 🙂



91 Responses to “February 2017 Big, Bad, Wide & International Report: covering Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo ebook sales in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand”

  1. Karen Myers says:

    Fascinating reading, as always.

    What’s it like for local languages in some of the countries, like Germany, I wonder?

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Karen,

      One of these days, we’ll find some time to look into non-English-language markets, too.

      In Germany, according to the latest public ebook sales data I could find, the size of the traditionally published ebook market seems to be roughly 27 million units a year–roughly the same volume as Canada’s. I suspect that if we were to include self-published and Amazon-published German ebooks, too, which those stats don’t include, we’d end up with a total of somewhere between 35 million and 40 million units a year for Germany.


  2. Joel Puga says:


    I wonder what is your reasoning in leaving Google Play out of this survey?

    Thank you.

  3. Tom Wood says:

    Great information as always, thanks!

    There is a recurring assertion in these reports that Indie authors can have it both ways when it comes to exclusivity on Amazon – they can put some titles in KDP Select and let other titles ‘go wide’. This is ignoring a unique twist if an author decides to distribute exclusively through IngramSpark.

    IngramSpark will not distribute ebooks to Amazon if the author has had ANY ebook(s) available at Amazon for the past year. For someone who hasn’t published at all yet, like myself, the decision to use IngramSpark for ebook distribution does negate the availability of KDP as a distribution channel. I suspect the one-year ‘dark period’ for ebooks at Amazon was a result of the recent tussle between Amazon and Ingram, since it discourages the ability of IngramSpark to poach Amazon KDP authors.

    I was wondering if you had any data on authors who are distributing exclusively through IngramSpark. I have my reasons for going this route, but would like to hear of any lessons learned.


    • Felix J. Torres says:

      There’s other ways to go wide than Ingram Spark.
      Ways that coexist seamlessly with KDP; Smashwords, Direct to Digital, etc.
      A lot of indies prefer to deal directly with Apple, Kobo, even Nook.

    • Christine says:

      I don’t deal with Ingram spark since I read that in their ebook distribution clause there’s a rights grab. Thoroughly read their contract before entrusting your ebooks to them! Dealing with individual retailers is much better than letting Ingram cramp your style forever in my opinion.

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Tom,

      I see an insignificant volume of ebook sales from IngramSpark & other distributors besides the main two (Draft2Digital and Smashwords). Here’s a breakdown by distribution method of indie unit sales and title counts at Apple & B&N:


      • Data Guy says:

        In comparing indie results by distribution-path against what we saw in our late-2015 wide report, I noticed something else interesting:

        The per-title performance gap between the two main third-party distributors seems to have widened. D2D’s average per-title sales have now almost caught up with indies who “go direct” on Apple iBookstore & Barnes&Noble Nook, while Smashwords per-title performance has dropped somewhat since late 2015. The per-title sales of other distributors (Pronoun, Inscribe, Streetlib, Ingram, Bookbaby, etc.) generally land somewhere down near Smashwords’, but all of those smaller distributors put together still account for less than 2% of all “wide” indie sales (see above pie charts).

        • Nirmala says:

          Any idea why there is such a discrepancy? One theory that comes to mind is that perhaps Smashwords attracts a lot of very casual indie writers, while more serious and professional indies may in general be using D2D or going direct. If so, the thousands of additional titles on Smashwords by authors who are not promoting or even properly editing and professionally creating their ebooks could be bringing the average sales per title way down.

          I have heard anecdotal reports of people who switched to D2D and then experienced an increase in sales, but I can’t think of a good reason why this would be so. Any one have ideas or theories about why D2D might be better, not in its average sales per title, but in greater sales on the same title? My wife and I have over 30 books published on Smashwords, and it would be a painful task to switch them all or even some to D2D. So I guess I am wondering if it is really worth it.

          PS: Going direct seems like way too much work 🙂

          • Data Guy says:

            Hi, Nirmala,

            The data can objectively tell us what, but not why.

            In general, I’m always a fan of experimentation. If you have 30 books to work with,
            you’re in an excellent position to A/B test with a few and compare results.


          • Nirmala says:

            You are so right. I was falling into the trap of black and white thinking. I am now in the process of moving half a dozen books over to D2D from Smashwords. I will try to remember to report back here in a few months when I have some data to compare.

          • Nirmala says:

            As promised, I am reporting back. After moving 10 of our titles (8 paid and 2 free) from Smashword over to D2D a month ago, the results are not very promising. We went from about 25 total paid sales for those titles in the month prior through Smashwords, to a total of 7 sales in the first month on D2D. Also, one of the free ebooks was downloaded a total of 7 times on D2D in the past month, compared to the average of around 30 downloads a month for that free title on Smashwords.

            This might not be a fair comparison as it might take a while for the new D2D listings to become as visible as the books were when they had been published through Smash for years. But for now, it does not seem that the identical titles are doing better on D2D. I will check back in again after 90 days to see if things change.

            I like the D2D interface, but my own experience with our non-fiction self-help/spiritual titles is that it is not helping our sales to be on there instead of Smash.

          • Nirmala says:

            Correction: I now realize that D2D does not have immediate sales data, so my figures in the above post are no longer correct as reports of sales from last month are still coming in as the various channels report their sales. I will update this info in a month or so when I am pretty sure that all of the actual sales have been reported.

            I was surprised that we had some D2D sales last month on Tolino. Previously, we had never sold a book on that store through Smashwords.

          • Nirmala says:

            Well, some more time has passed and while there have been a few stragglers, overall the sales on D2D are still not up to where they were on Smashwords. At least for us, there does not seem to be much advantage to D2D when comparing the results of selling the same set of books through the two distributors. D2D does reach a few different sellers, so we will probably leave the books we moved up on D2D, but just leave the rest on Smashwords.

  4. Geoffrey Reynolds says:

    What is the reason for leaving out Ireland, which is English-speaking with a similar population and larger economy than New Zealand?

    Also, since ebooks purchased in countries like Ireland, where Amazon doesn’t have a local store but other retailers like Apple and Kobo do, are included in Amazon’s totals for this report (under UK sales) but not in Apple’s or Kobo’s (where they are recorded as Irish sales), doesn’t that mean Amazon’s share of the market is being overstated by this report?

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Geoffrey,

      As of now, Ireland’s ebook market is still much smaller than New Zealand’s, despite the two countries’ similar populations.

      It takes the same amount of effort to extract ranking data from each store in each country, correlate it with raw sales data, and categorize the unidentified publishers, regardless of whether that store adds another 20% or less than 0.01% to our total. Incorporating additional countries and stores, especially low selling ones, into analyses like this one rapidly runs up against the law of diminishing returns.

      That’s the main reason we don’t do international and multi-retailer reports as often as US-only Amazon reports.


  5. Patrick says:

    Thanks for the great overview.
    I always wonder about the status of the so-called “enhanced” eBooks? I see no development there, even though a richer format including videos, interactive graphics and text seems a perfect fit for factual content. Apple took an initiative with iBooks Author, but the format never seemed to take off…
    Does anyone have numbers on enhanced ebooks? Or any idea if there is an initiative to move more into this direction by a big player?

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Patrick,

      As of yet, there’s a lot more media articles about “enhanced” eBooks than actual sales of those ebooks, at least as far as trade fiction and nonfiction are concerned. I’m not as familiar with the textbook/academic/professional digital market, though, so perhaps they are doing better there.

      As you point out, the capability and tools to create enhanced ebooks has been available for years from Apple. And more recently, Amazon has launched the Kindle In Motion format, and is selling KIM versions of 16 well-known titles.

      The fact that “enhanced ebooks” haven’t yet made significant sales inroads might be telling us that actual consumer demand for this type of change to the text reading experience is a very niche one. Time will tell.


      • Patrick says:

        …thanks, Data Guy, for your answer. I was not aware of this Kindle in Motion format.

        We believe that a better user experience using the full potential of all media formats available is the future. The problem is the discoverability and accessibility of “enhanced” formats – due probably to the fact that there is no standard format around. Maybe HTML 5 will be the solution.
        We experience since a few years with a format called “videobooks”. We win prizes such as twice the German eBook award and the selection of “Best of App Store”. But we always wonder: Do we win prizes because we are the only ones that did not give up yet ;-).
        (here is a link to a trailer about what we do: https://youtu.be/B7Ufyd8ZQMY)

    • Edward Smith says:

      I use iBooks Author for my poetry because I include images, sound (usually me reading the text as it appears on a page), and various fonts and links…. I suspect that ‘enhanced’ eBooks will perhaps be a minor alleyway of poetry. Recently I began to think that they are (for me anyway) a hybrid of art and poetry and will appear in galleries before they ever show on Data Guys charts. I don’t like the term ‘enhanced’ in any case as the multimedia in my work is not an enhancement but integral.

  6. Tom Wilson says:

    Why would people in New Zealand buy from Amazon.com, instead of from Amazon.au.com? Surely delivery would be faster from Australia – or does Amazon.au.com not accept orders from NZ.

    • Christine says:

      Sure NZ buyers can buy from Amazon AU but it’s purely a digital bookstore. For physical books/purchases all come from the US at high freight costs. At times freight is quoted at 4x the cost of the item!

    • Speaking for myself, I buy ebooks from amazon.com because I’m hooked into the US publishing ecosystem, and the sales, promotions and so forth that I become aware of are all for amazon.com, not amazon.com.au.

      Also, I suspect (on no evidence, other than this is how services like Netflix tend to work) that there are a number of books on .com that are not on .com.au, but very few cases of the other way around.

      And if I’m spending foreign currency anyway, whether it’s USD or AUD isn’t particularly important.

    • Jeremy says:

      Amazon.com is an international store. Amazon.com.au is an Australian store, different, limited, smaller… buying books from either is neither here nor there, but as previous experience sends you browsing for physical items on the .com store, you leave the region set to that and shop for everything on the international store. I only switch to the Amazon Australia store when the I can’t find a seller on the international store that will ship an item to NZ (usually because of exclusive distribution deals).

  7. Andy Halmay says:

    The numbers published here are out of step with our experience. Veni Vici Books out of Toronto, Canada, has 7 e-book titles with Amazon & Kobo. 95% of sales on Amazon come from the U.S. The rest from the UK, Australia.

    The occasional sale in Germany, Japan, India and Italy. Zero from Canada.

    Kobo sales are internationally consistent. Zero all around.

  8. Do you have any idea of the volume of English language ebooks sold through Amazon country specific sites in Europe other than UK ? For readers searching for English language ebooks on .com or .co.uk, Amazon tells them to go buy from the Amazon store in the country they live in – determined by Amazon’s geo-interpretation of their IP address. And as an encouragement to go away and buy elsewhere, they display a price that is higher than a native would pay in US or UK.

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Philip,

      The short answer is “not with any precision.” At least, not yet.

      But English language ebook sales in those other countries will almost certainly be quite a bit smaller than in the five English language countries we’ve included here.


  9. TheSFReader says:

    Not had time to read it thoroughly (will do this evening), but just ONE remark : with such a long title, it’s QUITE difficult to tweet a link without butchering the title… ;P (managed to do, with heavy cutting….

  10. Catdancing says:

    So if…”Almost all of the recent “Small/Medium Publisher” gains appear to be driven exclusively by one particular narrow subcategory of publishers, which is now seeing explosive growth in their ebook sales.”

    And your hint: “Hint: it’s not whom you think…”

    if it isn’t Romance, is it Erotica? Not the same thing, believe me.

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Catdancing,

      It’s neither. I’m talking about a particular type of publisher, not a particular genre or subgenre.

      Not trying to be deliberately mysterious here; it’s just that I need to dig deeper into the data before I’m comfortable making definitive statements about this.

      Basically, I first need to spend some time categorizing the thousands of different publisher imprints in the “Small/Medium Publisher” category into smaller subcategories. And then I need to look at how sales have trended for each of those subcategories over the last 3 years worth of quarterly reports, to determine if this is a recent shift or a longer term trend.

      Stay tuned.


  11. Data Guy,

    Wonderful work! Thanks.

    And as a member of the small/medium publisher world, I’m really looking forward to that data. One fine day about ten professional indie writers were here talking and we realized that of the ten, six of us were not considered indie, but instead in your small/medium category. Got a hunch the indie numbers will be much bigger when pulled apart. We all consider ourselves indie. We just aren’t counted that way.

    Thanks again for the fantastic work.

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Dean,

      Thank you. 🙂 And I definitely agree that our “indie” market share measurements are on the conservative low side of reality. As you point out, we technically categorize a lot of books as “Small/Medium Publisher” simply because they are published under a shared imprint, even though many of those authors do have full control over their own publishing rights and thus are truly indie.


      • Nirmala says:

        Would it help if those authors let you know they are actually “indie”? Maybe it would be too much extra work, but if you could manually move individual authors into the correct category, then over time your reports would become more accurate.

  12. I am a digital publishing consultant and book coach, and I wanted to thank you for your incredible dedication and thorough analyses which I am truly grateful for. It helps me to inform my clients of the latest trends. It’s invaluable and I am truly grateful.

    My question is, would you consider publishing (including) audio book statistics, as that’s a growing market opportunity I advise all my authors to take up?

    Thanks again..

    Suzanne Kiraly

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Suzanne,

      A couple of our previous reports have also included a detailed look at audiobook sales:


      While they are the fastest growing segment of the digital book market, they are also still relatively small compared to ebook sales: about 50 million audiobooks sold a year in the US, versus almost 500 million ebook purchases.


      • Nirmala says:

        As always, everyone’s experience is unique. But my wife, Gina Lake, and I are seeing audiobook sales earnings that now exceed our paperback sales and sometimes come very close to our ebook sales per month. And that is with many fewer titles available in audio than paper or ebook (only about 30% of our titles are available in audio format). We do write non-fiction (self-help and spiritual books), so that might explain somewhat why we are having such success with audiobooks. In any case, it is surprising to me that total audiobook sales are still so small compared to ebooks.

        For obvious reasons, we are going to convert more of our books to audio in the coming months.

  13. Maggie Lynch says:

    Great work, as always! I am really gratified to see indie publishers continuing to gain ground. I have been watching these reports from the beginning and I love how your sample size has grown and your data analysis now takes into account distributors besides Amazon.

    Like others, I’m interested in the small/medium publisher category. I founded an author cooperative with 20 authors and over 150 titles currently. And I know I’m not the only indie who has done this. There seem to be a number of publishing cooperatives and/or marketing cooperatives formed under a particular imprint. I assume they are categorized as small/medium “traditional” publishers because they have several titles and authors. However, at least in our case, the publishing house doesn’t do anything the “traditional” publishers do (e.g., provide editing, cover design, or distribution services). Those are each handled by the individual author. Instead we provide a single publishing imprint for a group of authors who agree to share knowledge, mentorship, marketing costs and economies of scale for product distribution and under a house name.

  14. Allen says:

    Thanks as always. Great data and insight! This caught my eye: “Amazon Publishing’s growing share of all Amazon ebook sales is a fascinating, and somewhat unsettling, trend to watch.” I also find it unsettling because I think Amazon will effectively take more of the “virtual shelf space” and make it harder for indies to compete. It will be like gambling in a casino — the house lets you win enough to keep playing, but it is rigged just enough that they win in the end. Why did you call it “unsettling”?

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Allen,

      I actually think traditional publishers are losing a lot more ebook sales to Amazon imprints than indies are. That’s certainly what the 3-year trend seems to show: indie and Amazon imprint market share rising rapidly, while traditionally published market share falls.

      The reason I used the word “unsettling” is Amazon’s ability to drive, via algorithmic merchandising, which books are marketed most heavily to their customers and which aren’t. For me the question isn’t whether Amazon Imprints will continue to grow their share of ebook sales; the question is where Amazon will decide they should level off.


      • Russ says:

        Perhaps traditional publishers are more affected but I also find it interesting that the recent sharp incline in Amazon Imprints matched the recent decline with indies. Do you think there’s any chance one of these algo “tweaks” in the imprint’s favor could be the cause? I suspect it could be and suspect the recent uptake of AMS has helped mask or correct that problem. Is there any chance of future data scraping somehow analyzing the impact/use of AMS? Granted, it helps make sales and advertising is a necessary expense, but AMS is also another piece of this mysterious algorithm fully under their control. It could represent a way to effectively recover paid out royalties, especially once they’re -the- only place to buy eBooks.

  15. Thank you for all that hard work! As a Kiwi (New Zealand) writer I am delighted with this report and its results.
    p.d.r. lindsay

  16. Miha Kovac says:

    Are there any hints about sales of ebooks in English in non-English speaking countries in continental Europe such as Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands,Norway, Latvia, Slovenia, etc., where Amazon doesn’t operate a local store so that customers buy ebooks in Amazon.com? In all these countries, significant strata of population speak English as a second languge and according to local reading surveys, anectodal evidence and to the data of local booksellers, books in English represent up to 15% of sales in local markets so it is a logical assumption that these countries are a serious market for ebooks in English too.

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Miha,

      When we look at Amazon.com ebook sales in all non-English languages put together, they make up 0.4% of the total. Even if Amazon.com’s English language ebook sales from those same countries were equal to their native-language sales, we’re talking about less than half a percent.


      PS – If you’re curious, my apologies for the formatting below, but here’s how unit sales and customer dollars break down by language in our million-title Amazon.com dataset:

      | language | titles | authors | salesperday | dailyrevenue | authordailyrevenue |
      | English | 938883 | 228374 | 865641 | 4455381.538089175 | 1424967.5091635035 |
      | Spanish | 19467 | 7360 | 2755 | 12279.27114278078 | 3910.3688921630383 |
      | German | 25066 | 6449 | 200 | 1345.1324064731598 | 585.4570806324482 |
      | French | 16231 | 4623 | 183 | 740.5296174287796 | 280.60477831959724 |
      | Italian | 7599 | 3091 | 89 | 672.0094898939133 | 264.6301795244217 |
      | Afrikaans | 664 | 284 | 44 | 337.6549965143204 | 86.05774903297424 |
      | Portuguese | 5646 | 2432 | 60 | 332.3284370303154 | 128.68707782030106 |
      | Chinese | 1511 | 900 | 111 | 272.37999880313873 | 68.09499970078468 |
      | Dutch | 552 | 294 | 15 | 241.9400007724762 | 82.68199795484543 |
      | Finnish | 169 | 94 | 3 | 167.4900016784668 | 58.621498107910156 |
      | Japanese | 4010 | 1685 | 46 | 160.12442135810852 | 56.10633844137192 |
      | Swedish | 240 | 118 | 8 | 146.5549989938736 | 51.93374904990196 |
      | Norwegian | 131 | 61 | 6 | 141.03592920303345 | 49.68590033054352 |
      | Danish | 260 | 104 | 3 | 127.5 | 44.625 |
      | Russian | 3629 | 1260 | 55 | 112.99999839626253 | 31.845499591436237 |
      | Icelandic | 158 | 72 | 6 | 109.44499886035919 | 28.03399968147278 |
      | NULL | 22 | 19 | 4 | 48.649999141693115 | 12.162499785423279 |
      | Bokmål Norwegian | 22 | 14 | 1 | 42.5 | 14.875 |
      | Irish | 130 | 52 | 11 | 39.39999985694885 | 19.591499894857407 |
      | Romansh | 15 | 11 | 3 | 14.970000267028809 | 3.742500066757202 |
      | Catalan | 254 | 137 | 1 | 4.610000133514404 | 1.152500033378601 |
      | Welsh | 154 | 78 | 1 | 1.4950000047683716 | 1.0464999675750732 |
      | Nynorsk Norwegian | 2 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Multilingual | 1 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Manx | 7 | 6 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Swahili | 100 | 73 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Cornish | 4 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Scots Gaelic | 15 | 11 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Hindi | 70 | 43 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Alsatian | 16 | 6 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Provençal | 4 | 3 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Esperanto | 1 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Luxembourgish | 10 | 6 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Scottish Gaelic | 2 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Breton | 4 | 3 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Scots | 17 | 11 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Hungarian | 2 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Basque | 122 | 60 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Greek | 5 | 5 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Albanian | 1 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Galician | 132 | 63 | 0 | 0 | 0 |
      | Latin | 2 | 2 | 0 | NULL | NULL |
      | Slovene | 1 | 1 | 0 | NULL | NULL |
      | Polish | 3 | 3 | 0 | NULL | NULL |
      | Marathi | 1 | 1 | 0 | NULL | NULL |
      | Corsican | 1 | 1 | NULL | NULL | NULL |
      46 rows in set (7.58 sec)

      • Karen Myers says:

        That’s an incredibly valuable breakdown — thanks!

        I hear a lot of talk about producing translations, and one question is size of market. As the percentage of books sold by Amazon vs the other usual worldwide merchants (Kobo, Apple, Google Play — no print editions) vs local online merchants (all formats) changes from country to country (including all the places where Amazon is not), one clear takeaway is you better have your international distribution lined up for the local merchants first, and plans on how to market to their customers.

        We can’t do everything simultaneously: write more product, create more formats, produce translations, widen distribution, widen marketing — we need to set priorities for spending our limited dollars and limited time.

        • Data Guy says:

          …one clear takeaway is you better have your international distribution lined up for the local merchants first…

          Hi, Karen,

          My own takeaway was pretty much the opposite of that.

          Any ebook market of non-negligible scale is already overwhelmingly dominated by the big international retailers we are looking at here; “Local merchants” make up a negligible share of ebook purchases in each country. Unfortunately, for most authors there’s hardly any incremental sales benefit to be had (yet?) by chasing distribution at a whole plethora of other micro ebook retailers that generate barely any sales. The time and effort required is probably far better spent improving one’s “wide” marketing efforts at–and relationships with–Apple, Nook, Kobo, and Google, which if approached correctly, can between them generate a significant share of an author’s sales.

          But of course, YMMV.

          I would never discourage any author from seeking to diversify their income sources as widely as possible; as you say, it’s just a question of prioritizing the time and effort spent on it against opportunity costs and degree of diminishing returns.


      • Miha Kovac says:

        My assumption is just the opposite, that in many European countries Amazon’s sales of books in English are much bigger than its sales in local languages. In Slovenia for example, biggest retailer makes about 10% of its turnover in brick and mortar bookstores with English book sales, whilst bestselling authors such as John Green sell about 30% in English and 70% in translation. My guess is that situation is very much similar in Baltic states and in Scandinavia. As postal services in these countries are good and most of the population owns smartphones, it is logically to expect that many readers buy their print and digital English books via Amazon (even more so because Amazon’s prices for many print books are lower than in local bookstores, postage included). In short, the question that bothers me is how big are Amazon booksales in English in thes countries – any hints if this question can be answered at all?.

        • Data Guy says:

          Hi, Miha,

          To get a quick rough idea, I took a look at the German Amazon site’s Top 100 Kindle best sellers. They were all German language ebooks (although many had covers that were titled in English, and thus were almost certainly German-language editions of English-language originals).

          So I’d estimate the percentage of English-language ebook sales in non-UK, non-Ireland Eurpoean countries is less than 5% of each countries’ total ebook sales–possibly a lot less. But we won’t know for sure until we aim the data-collection spider at a non-English-language store and analyze it in more depth.


          • Miha Kovac says:

            Many thanks and just a hint – my assumption is that most of bestselling titles on Amazon.de are actualy written by the Germans using English pen names as in central Europe, there is an assumption that romances should be written by Us or English authors (even more so, almost all such titles have no translator names in the colophons).
            Nevertheless, German market is too big to be significantly English dependent – better cases are Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Netherlands, etc… When put together, these markets are not so small (around 40 mio quite affluent and educated inhabitants) and might make a visible impact on Amazon.com.

  17. can you share any figures about total e-book sales by google play? you reference Google Play a few times, but do not have any data about their market share, how many e-books sold in the same time frame as amazon, B&N, apple, and kobo. There is also no data on the number of bestsellers sold on the platform, vs other books sold.

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Michael,

      We looked at GooglePlay in some detail in an earlier report:


      GooglePlay’s US ebook market share remains between 1% and 2% at most– they are selling somewhere between 5 million and 10 million US ebooks a year: which is less than a fifth of Apple’s US sales and at best a fortieth of Amazon’s.

      Despite their size in other areas, and some obvious advantages they could bring to bear in ebook sales, Google appears to have little if any interest in competing seriously in ebooks. It’s unfortunate; we’d all like to see a much more diverse ebook retail ecosystem, and Google is one of few players who could actually compete effectively with Amazon if they cared to.


      • Tom says:

        Google Play has recently offered $5 credits to any book over $5. This includes Big 5 titles. I’ve received three of them since December 2016. In fact, it’s available now on Google Play’s homepage.

        Perhaps, this is a start in improving sales. Or data gathering. Either way it’s one of the few ways customers can secure substantial and immediate discounts on Big 5 titles.

  18. Brian says:


    Audio publications. Audible. Audio Books.

    Is there a section that deals with how well or badly audio publications are selling please?

    How worthwhile in selling terms audio books have proved to be with Amazon and others when bolted on to normally ebook sales as an extra option for the purchaser?

    I ask from the point of view of someone in the UK who is revising a novel at the present time and will soon be uploading it onto Amazon Kindle.


  19. Brendan says:

    Fascinating write-up. As a transitioning businessperson-to-writer, this kind of detailed analysis is hard to come by. Thanks for all your work putting it together.

  20. Thank you for your work, as always. It was great to see you speak in person at DBW in New York.

    Do you find this out in a future report?: “Hint: it’s not whom you think… “

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Lavie,

      Yep, we’ll definitely cover it in a future report: I need to dig deeper into the data before I’m comfortable making definitive statements about it.


  21. J. Byrd says:

    “So for indies contemplating whether to go “wide” with a title or enroll it in Kindle Select as an Amazon exclusive, there’s still no easy answer. (Sorry.)”

    No kidding. My wife and I have tried both approaches more than once and I know several other authors who have done the same. Select is fab *if* you get KU reads, but not so hot if you don’t. The KU% your data shows as an aggregate can vary wildly at the individual book level. (A cautionary tale for authors making publishing/marketing decisions based on this data.) Also, an author’s ability to get a Bookbub ad can make a huge difference. We have books that sell almost nothing at other vendors between advertising campaigns, but do quite nicely when we manage to get a Bookbub promotion. It’s impossible to know for sure, but our anecdotal evidence suggests that the money we earn from those promotions would not be offset by KU reads were the books in Select. Meanwhile, Amazon keeps changing the rules (like the May-Oct 2016 disaster you mentioned), making yesterday’s conclusions obsolete. *Sigh*

    All we can do is keep trying different approaches and measure the results, keeping in mind that the right approach for one series isn’t necessarily the right approach for another.

  22. Dazrin says:

    Do you have the raw data to download for this report? Or maybe I just missed it? I would be interested in seeing the raw data for this one.


    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Dazrin,

      As I get time, I intend to anonymize at least some of this data and post links. I’ve been procrastinating doing it, because with 15 different datasets from 15 different stores, it’s 15x as much effort as usual to anonymize and package it all. 😛

      Is there a particular country/store you are most interested in the data for? Perhaps I can put that up first. 🙂


      • D.A. Casey says:

        Great job, DG! Thanks for this report. Whenever you get a chance, would you please post the Amazon.com Kindle raw data? I’d like to compare that to previous quarter reports’ data. Thanks!

  23. Diane Capri says:

    Excellent report! Thanks for doing this and making all of the information available to us. My question is about KU payouts to authors. If I read your report correctly, KU author income is 52% borrows and 48% actual sales. (And a borrow pays the author less than a sale would pay — even assuming each book is a full read.) Can you estimate the size of Amazon’s eBook market share EXCLUDING the KU borrows? In other words, I’m guessing it’s not as simple as taking the 80% market share attributed to Amazon and subtracting the 52% paid for borrows, leaving Amazon with 28% of the overall ebook sales market. But what is Amazon’s percentage of total actual ebook sales? Thanks!

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Diane,

      If we ignore KU paid reads altogether in our US unit sales calculations, Amazon’s market share in the US drops from 83.4% to 80.9% of all paid ebook units. (And the total # of annual US paid ebook units drops from 487M to 425M).

      Interestingly enough, despite the generally-held belief that indies earn less from a KU full-read than a retail sale, the hard data shows that, on average, the truth of the matter is more nuanced.

      In February 2017, on average, KU indie titles earned their authors more per KU read-through ($2.21 on average) than retail sale ($1.72 on average). They also earned slightly more per KU read-through, on average, than non-KU indie titles earned per retail sale ($2.19 on average). So pretty much the opposite of the generally-held belief.

      However, in previous quarters, while our data similarly showed KU indie titles on average always earned more per read-through than they earned per sale, they were earning slightly less than non-KU indie titles were earning on average per sale (around 15% less).

      Relevant data summarized in the table below:

      Titles in Data Set Average Purchase Price Average Page Length Average KU Payout for Full Read Average Earnings from Retail Purchase Earnings From Purchases Earnings from Page Reads
      February 2017:
      KU indie titles 23,703 $2.72 294 $2.21 $1.72 $127,917 $172,385
      non-KU indie titles 13,538 $3.40 313 $2.19 $150,689
      October 2016:
      KU indie titles 34,523 $2.62 274 $2.06 $1.67 $130,908 $168,604
      non-KU indie titles 16,233 $3.65 304 $2.39 $108,691
      May 2016 (1 million title dataset):
      KU indie titles 182,862 $2.87 257 $1.93 $1.87 $238,355 $239,342
      non-KU indie titles 133,794 $3.47 287 $2.31 $250,831
      January 2016:
      KU indie titles 37,118 $2.65 258 $1.94 $1.69 $163,614 $196,930
      non-KU indie titles 16,538 $3.36 285 $2.20 $144,661

      Of course, these are the averages across all indie titles that customers are buying & borrowing.
      Naturally, individual authors — especially well-established authors able to sell a lot of books to their fans at $4.99, $5.99, $6.99, etc. price points, or authors who write shorter works — might earn less per full-read in KU than per sale. But these are the KU-wide averages weighted by actual total sales.


      • Diane Capri says:

        Thanks for the explanation. I’m still a little confused. What I’m trying to find out is Amazon’s percentage of indie author income that is attributable to sales and not KU borrows. The other retilers only pay royalties on sales. To compare oranges to oranges, I’d like to know the percentage attributable to Amazon sales. Can we tell that from your data?

        • Data Guy says:

          Hi, Diane,

          Total Amazon.com indie author income (measured in dollars) breaks down as follows:
          66.4% is from retail sales of KDP indie titles
          33.6% is from KindleUnlimited page reads of KDP indie titles

          EXCLUDING all payment for KU reads, Amazon.com’s “regular” indie retail sales alone still account for 85.5% of all US take-home indie dollars from regular retail sales, while the other retailers (Apple, Nook, Kobo, Google, etc.) together make up the remaining 14.5%.

          (to break it down further, 8.5% of all US indie dollars from retail sales come from Apple, 3.6% from Nook, and 2.4% from Kobo, Google, and all other US retailers combined).


          • Diane Capri says:

            Just one more thing (as Colombo was wont to say 🙂 ) — You say above that:

            “If we ignore KU paid reads altogether in our US unit sales calculations, Amazon’s market share in the US drops from 83.4% to 80.9% of all paid ebook units. (And the total # of annual US paid ebook units drops from 487M to 425M).”

            But — this is the total market, including the various trad pubs, correct? How much of this is the indie market, ignoring KU paid reads?


          • Data Guy says:

            …Columbo & Steve Jobs both, so you’re in good company. 😉

            EXCLUDING paid KindleUnlimited read-throughs, there are roughly 150M “regular” indie ebook retail sales a year in the US.

            (126M from Indie Self-Published authors that we’ve individually verified as being self-published, with another roughly 24M more sales from “unverified” indie authors who make up the bulk of the lighter blue (cyan) category we call “Uncategorized Single/Author Publisher Imprint” because we haven’t checked ’em one by one, to make sure that each of the many tens of thousands of them is truly an indie).

            I’m going to nitpick your terminology slightly, though, and make the point that there really is no such thing as an “indie ebook market” where readers are concerned; instead, they see a single holistic ebook market in which titles are differentiated by:
            – pricing
            – author name recognition
            – availability at the retailer of their choice
            – professionalism & polish visible from cover, blurb, writing, and editing (i.e. “quality”)
            – availability in other formats (audio, print)
            – media accolades (NYT or USAT best seller status, literary awards)
            – KU availability

            But perhaps more importantly, readers see a single holistic ebook market in which titles are NOT at all differentiated by:
            – size of publisher
            – name of publisher
            – or even whether a title was self-published or used any traditional publisher at all

            So I’d opine that there’s no such thing as an “indie ebook market” per se, only the current indie share of the overall ebook market–a share that indies, by competing more and more effectively, have the power to grow.


  24. Diane Capri says:

    Thanks so much! I totally agree with you on the “indivisible ebook market” as far as readers are concerned. But for indie authors, who are constantly trying to decide whether to give KU a chance (with apologies to John Lennon this time 🙂 ) the question of the size of the indie market, and how it’s distributed, comes up regularly. Specifically, the question we ask ourselves is whether our not-Select sales, overall, mimic the market’s distribution? If, for example, an indie author’s total ebook revenue pie is 60% Amazon and 40% everywhere else, does that mean she is selling proportionately too little on Amazon, too much or just right? It seems like you’re saying 66.4% of revenue on Amazon and 33.6% everywhere else would mimic the distribution of the market. Or am I missing your point?


  25. Data Guy says:

    That’s a great question.

    For a non-Select (i.e. “wide”) indie title or author, total sales by retailer break down–on average–as per the lower left blue pie in this chart (replicated from above):

    So “wide” indie titles/authors on average see 75% of their sales come from Amazon and 25% from other retailers. (Obviously, for an individual author or title, mileage will vary, but those are the averages across all “wide” indies).

    If a particular non-Select indie author or title has sales that are 60% Amazon and 40% everywhere else, then I would say she is doing disproportionately well at other retailers (or, alternately, disproportionately underperforming at Amazon) relative to the average sales breakdown for a “wide” indie.


  26. Brian Astbury says:

    Thanks for all this fascinating data. Can’t begin to imagine the amount of work that has gone into it.
    One thing, though: have you heard of the colour called Yellow? Even on my colour-calibrated PC screen (I do a lot of Photoshop/Lightroom work…) it is very hard to differentiate between Blue and Cyan, especially when Cyan is the smallest sliver. On my tablet and mobile, it’s bloody impossible…

    Have shared this widely. You’re a genuine Hero!

  27. Brian Astbury says:

    Why does the Facebook Like button vanish when I try to click on it? I had to copy and paste to share. Not used to such hard work…

  28. Michal says:

    As a moderately successful indie author I’m being asked all the time by newbies about indie vs. traditional.
    Your reports provide me with ammo to regularly reply: indie, indie, yeap indie…

  29. According to the BBC eBook sales are down, but the report only looks at figures from The Publishers Associaton membership in the UK who are traditional publishers.
    From your research, are you conclusively able to say that eBook sales in the UK are growing and so contradict the findings reported in this BBC article?

  30. Dear Data Guy,

    How are you? I am fine.

    How does non-fiction stack up to fiction in regards to sales, money, etc.? I’d imagine fiction indies dominate the charts?

    Have a bitchin’ summer!


  31. Martinique says:

    “Almost all of the recent “Small/Medium Publisher” gains appear to be driven exclusively by one particular narrow subcategory of publishers, which is now seeing explosive growth in their ebook sales.
    Hint: it’s not whom you think… 🙂”

    Pray tell, who is it? I would love to know how self help genres are doing VS fiction and in which countries.

  32. NAVEEN says:

    You did an amazing job as always.
    I have a question regarding indie vs traditional published author.
    Do you have data about authors.

    1) Number of authors – English book title
    2) Indie author english title
    3) Average sales by author type big 5, small medium, indie
    4) ebook vs print book author
    5) author only publish ebook

    Hope to get some insight on above data,

  33. Very good informtion, indeed.

    But it is a pitty you do not offer information on ebook sales in other languages (Spanish, for example), countries (Brazil, China) and on nonfiction domains (medical, law, politics, etc).

  34. Nathan says:

    I was wondering if there are updates on the price comparison for ebooks from the last two reports (May 2016 & October 2016)?

    It seemed that the likelihood changed from May to October from 3.99 to 4.99 per ebook.
    Is there data on how this changed to February 2017 or even later this year?

    Thank you!

  35. AJ Adams says:

    “For authors, selling an ebook to a reader in a different country is just as easy as selling to a reader in your home country. Barriers to reaching an international audience no longer exist.”

    This is untrue. Those of us who aren’t in your countries need to set up bank accounts in the US/UK/EU or we can’t get paid via bank transfer, and even when we manage that, we’re punished with a myriad of other rules. For example, we pay tax on our income in our own countries and on top of that, we still have to pay an extra 30% super tax on all sales in or via the US. Then we have to pay extra fees to get paid, too. Ask any Malaysian, South African, Singaporean based author.

    As for working directly with publishers, Apple won’t work with us, nor will B&N.

    It is not a level playing field.

  36. Manoj says:

    HI Everyone, DG:

    Greetings. This report is amazing and I just read it.

    I am a career guy turned an aspiring author in the business genre. The publishing world is totally a new place for me. Having said that I see a lot of information (I really mean it, a LOT of information) out there on the net.
    As you can guess, I am a self-publishing author and this can be absolutely chaotic in my mind. I have taken help from a leading house in publishing for editing and other services. However, what lingers in my mind is the reach of my book and what needs to be done to penetrate the readership circles. I have a message in my book that can help others and the entire is written from my experience in the career. Any tips on building such a success story will be appreciated. Kindly be informed that, I don’t live in the US or any of the 5 English speaking countries.

    I am tending to go as “wide” indie because I am really keen to tap into the Apple i-books due to its niche nature.

    DG – my question in this context would be: Could you split the e-book sales per channel (Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Google) for non-fiction, business genre. This will help me understand which channel to focus on.

    DG – Further, is there a sizable market for audio books in the non-fiction, business genre?

    Thank you and God bless you.

    Let Abundance continue flowing for all.

    Best of the Best,


  37. aljo says:

    I was wondering if you have a historical KU titles/Total titles for the UK territory since 2015 to date. It’d be really interesting to see this for the top 10k positions in the rank too. I have the feeling this might be growing more and more.
    Thanks as ever and keep the good work!

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