What we can say is that the ebook revenues the AAP isn’t reporting put the numbers it is reporting in a very different context. And make the comparisons with audiobook revenues rather meaningless.
It seems like only last month (May 27 if you must know) that Publishing Perspectives was reporting the latest AAP StatShot numbers, noting without further clarification that ebook revenues in March (mainstream publishing numbers are always months behind even for digital-only sales) were down 12.2% to $76.9 million, being chased hard by downloadable audiobook, as ever up (8.4% in this instance) to $63.5 million.
When we eventually get to see the StatShot numbers for last month, May, it’s possible downloadable audiobook revenues will exceed that of ebooks.
If not May, then almost certainly later in the year.
And one can imagine the editors-in-chief and staff writers already scripting, revising and rewriting their headline copy for this glorious day when the reading public’s disaffection with ebooks finally sinks the format below the revenues of that upstart format, audiobooks.
The problem here being the AAP numbers do not reflect the full reading public’s format preferences, just those that shop from certain outlets favoured by mainstream publishing.
And in particular they do not reflect the public’s engagement with unlimited ebook subscription services like Kindle Unlimited.
In fact, as a rule mainstream publishing does not send its ebooks to Kindle Unlimited at all. There are exceptions, and the revenue from those exceptions will likely be included in the AAP StatShot numbers, but what we can say with absolute certainty is that the AAP StatShot numbers do not include revenue from small presses and indie authors that can only access Kindle Unlimited via Amazon’s KDP platform.
At which point some may be thinking, be serious, self-published ebook revenues don’t even move the needle. Next!
But hold on. Let’s revisit the AAP StatShot numbers for March. Ebook revenue $76.9 million. For mainstream publishers.
In the same month Amazon paid out $41.4 million through its Kindle Unlimited “pot”, distributed ONLY to small presses and, mainly, indie authors. Mainstream publishers with titles in Kindle Unlimited are paid separately, a la carte. APub authors which of course have all their titles in Kindle Unlimited, are paid separately, a la carte. The Kindle unlimited “pot” is shared only among KDP-loaded titles.
And let’s just tease that latter point a little further. Because anyone who follows the ebook charts will know APub titles do not just compete with but often wipe the floor with mainstream-published ebooks. We can argue until the cows come home about whether that is because the reading public prefer APub authors or because Amazon owns the platform, but what is beyond question is that APub ebooks sell in seriously large numbers.
Yet APub ebook sales are not, repeat, not included in the AAP StatShot numbers, and nor of course are the sales from indie authors.
We can only guess how much more APub sales would add to the March ebook revenue of $41.4 million from the Kindle Unlimited pot. What we can say is that the ebook revenues the AAP isn’t reporting put the numbers it is reporting in a very different context.
And make the comparisons with audiobook revenues rather meaningless.
And to make matters worse still, we are here talking just about revenue for the unlimited ebook subscription service that is Kindle unlimited. We are not even mentioning the also untracked a la carte sales on Amazon, and on other platforms, that are boosting indie author revenues and that the AAP again does not consider.
It will be late July before the AAP chooses to share with us the mainstream ebook revenues for May, but as a marker, the Kindle Unlimited pay-out for May has just been announced and it sets a new monthly record of $43.3 million.
But let me end this post with a quick look at a TNPS post from eighteen months ago in January 2020, when Kindle Unlimited paid out over a quarter billion dollars to indie authors.
So far this year – with just five months of figures declared – the Kindle Unlimited pot pay-out is already at $207.8 million, and every cent is uncounted and unreported by the AAP.
And we can only guess at how much more in going uncounted and therefore unreported from a la cart sales on Amazon and other platforms, and from ebook subscription services other than Kindle Unlimited.