If we take the APA’s June count and add only the Kindle Unlimited pot pay-out we know of, and still exclude all other Kindle Unlimited revenue and all other ebook revenue, that alone takes the June ebook total to $123.4 million, compared to the $83 million the APA tells us.
The industry journals are reporting the latest APA figures, summing up June and the first six months of 2022, painting a bleak picture for the ebook format, down 6.3% in June to $83 million compared to 2021, and down 8.5% to $500.4 million for the first six months of 2022.
By value ebooks accounted for just 12.7% of the trade market.
Except that it didn’t. At least not the total market. These figures are just those from the publishers reporting to the APA, and to be clear the APA itself makes no claim to be reporting the whole market. Not that you’d know that from some reportage, which treats the APA numbers as a definitive statement on the US ebook market.
What isn’t the APA counting? Essentially any publishers that do not report to the APA – which means all indie authors, APub, and countless small presses.
Indies of course are famously digital-first publishers, and many are solely ebook focussed. Many non-reporting small publishers are digital first or have a strong digital portfolio. APub publishes ebooks, audio and print, but given Amazon owns the Kindle store it’s a given that its titles own the Kindle store charts, as any glance at the ebook charts will confirm.
Given none of these report to the APA it’s also a given – but not one many in the industry want to say out loud – that the APA statistics only show us part of the picture.
But just how much more in trade value might the APA be missing?
We cannot know for sure, but we can be sure APub is the single biggest player in this uncounted field, and that it won’t be sharing its numbers any time soon.
But Amazon does share the amount it pays out to indie authors through the Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription platform. This doesn’t tell us total revenue, but the “royalty” paid through the “pot”.
To be clear, the pot is paid out only to indie authors and small presses loading to the Kindle store via KDP and that are enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited programme.
Bigger publishers with titles in Kindle Unlimited are paid à la carte quite separate from the pot. The same applies to APub authors.
And of course all authors, indie or otherwise, selling ebooks on Amazon that are not in the Kindle Unlimited programme, are paid à la carte.
These numbers, like the Kindle Unlimited numbers, are not counted by the APA. Nor are indie ebook sales and downloads on Kobo, Nook, Apple Books, Google Play books, Scribd, etc, etc.
This all mounts up, to a figure we can only speculate about. But what we do know is how much Amazon paid out to indie authors as “royalties” in June – the same month the APA reported a total of $80 million in cold ebook revenue.
In June Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited pot totalled $43.4 million.
That’s more than half as much again as the total APA reported ebook revenue, and again this figure does not include à la carte sales from indies.
Over the first six months of 2022?
The Kindle Unlimited pot value has risen every single month except February. Here’s the running count:
• $42.2 million in January
• $39.4 million in February
• $41.4 million in March
• $41.5 million in April
• $43.3 million in May
• $43.4 million in June
• $251.2 million = H1 total
Yes, read that again, In the first six months of 2022 the Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription service paid out a quarter million in ”royalties” to participating indie authors and small presses, quite separate from its pay-out to APub authors and to bigger publishers with titles in the programme.
That’s more than half as much again of the total ebook revenue – not royalties but hard revenue – reported by the APA, that has not been counted.
Subscription services notoriously do not pay much to authors/publishers – the June rate for indie authors was $0.00458496 per page read, equivalent to a royalty of $1.37 for a 300 page book assuming all pages parsed.
Of course book lengths will vary enormously and not everyone will read every page, but what we can say it that one helluva lot of pages of indie-published titles must have been turned by Kindle Unlimited subscribers to make up that $43.4 million.
9.5 billion pages since you ask, and taking 300 pages as an average that would be 36 million ebooks.
Those latter numbers just to give some sense of scale, of course, not as accurate figures. Some books will be longer, some shorter, some… But the APA numbers, like the Kindle Unlimited pay-out numbers, are as reported.
Meaning what we can say is that the ebook market is way, way, way bigger than the APA’s numbers tell us.
Let me end with this thought: if we take the APA’s June count and add only the Kindle Unlimited pot pay-out we know of, and still exclude all other Kindle Unlimited revenue and all other ebook revenue, that alone takes the ebook total to $123.4 million, compared to the $80 million the APA tells us.
And if we take the H1 APA numbers and the H1 Kindle Unlimited indie pot pay-out together we are looking at a revised ebook value of $751.6 million, compared to the $500.4 million the APA numbers alone tell us.
And of course we are still nowhere near counting all ebook revenue.