Publishing Perspectives reports today on a new global book market study project, BookMap, which estimates the global book markets to be valued at 122 billion euros – that’s $143 bn USD.
With the USA accounting for just 29% of global book sales by revenue that leaves the world outside the USA totalling 71%, although the report suggests this is concentrated in a handful of key markets.
For those unable to clearly distinguish the colour bands, follow the list of countries/regions in the image clockwise from the blue USA sector.
While the best global overview available, the numbers are likely to be conservative, especially in relation to the USA and China.
For the USA the figures won’t be taking into account the unreported ebook sales being delivered by most self-publishers, for example.
In the February 2017 Author Earnings Report Data Guy estimated self-published ebooks to total 34% of the US ebook market.
Earlier this month Data Guy offered some previews of the next Author Earnings Report, due out later this year, and noted that in the past five months 20.1 million ebook units were sold, valued at $110 million, with ISBNs, so recorded by standard industry stats-counters.
But in the same period, says Data Guy, a further 45.8 million units were sold without ISBNs, valued at $125 million. The sales without ISBNs will not be included in most industry stats-counts.
That would add, extrapolating for the year, $300 million to the US market value.
Which of course is a small figure when set against the $43 billion total US book market valuation, and raises another weakness in the BookMap report – that this is all about comparative US dollar (or strictly-speaking euros, as the report comes from Austria) values for each market.
Let’s take those numbers from Data Guy again.
With ISBNs: 20.1 million ebook units valued at $110 million
Without ISBNs: 45.8 million units, valued at $125 million.
That’s 117% more units sold for an increase in value of just 13%.
Which is where we have to ask ourselves, is the BookMap report giving us a really useful overview of the number of books being sold worldwide, or the number of readers out there, or just telling us which countries charge a lot for their books?
Is a sale in the US more valuable than a sale in China or Chile or Chad? In dollar value, almost certainly, but if China can deliver a publisher 100 unit sales at a dollar a time for every 10 US unit sales at $9…
Or is a sale in France worth more than one in India? Here the comparison is intriguing.
BookMap estimates the French market to be valued at 3.9 billion in 2016 and India to be valued at 3.6 billion in 2015. Pretty close! Yet India list prices are way, way lower than list prices in France, suggesting the volume of unit sales in India is likely significantly higher than in France.
A dollar-centric / euro-centric overview of the global markets offers valuable insights but by no means tells the whole story.
For BookMap, of course, the data may simply not be available to make those wider comparisons.
Likewise, the available data for the euro / dollar values BookMap uses are weakened by inconsistent time frames.
The China, India and Japan data is from 2015, Turkey from 2014, Australia and Netherlands from 2013 and South Korea from 2012.
Might we have seen a different story for the compared-above France and India figures if we had the 2016 stats for both?
For China, especially, this matters, given the explosion in digital literature since late 2015, and plenty of suggestions print has been growing well 2016-through-2017.
My guess is the US-China gap will be significantly narrowed in the next BookMap report.
To be clear, none of this is intended as a criticism of the BookMap report, which is probably the best overview of the global book markets we have right now. And in the report BookMap is very open about its limitations.
But we do need to bear the parameters and limitations in mind when considering the findings.
The BookMap report can be downloaded free via a link that can be found on the Publishing Perspectives post.