eBook sales peaked in Canada last year
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eBook sales peaked in Canada last year

KindleA new study from BookNet Canada notes that the e-book market could be in trouble. According to BookNet’s The Canadian Book Consumer 2012: Annual Report, Paperback books made up 58 percent of all books sold last year, with hardcover taking 24 percent.  e-books were only 15 percent of total sales last year, a figure that’s down overall from 2012’s first quarter, where they made up 17.6 percent. Put simply, e-books are selling, but they’re not taking the market by storm.

“The research suggests that the ebook market in Canada may have reached a plateau,” says BookNet Canada President and CEO Noah Genner. “Early 2013 data backs this up. So far, we’re seeing the same pattern repeating itself.”

Ebooks peaked in Q1 at 17.6% of unit sales and declined steadily over the rest of the year to hit 12.9% in the last quarter. The 5% decline is likely due to heightened sales in Q1 after receiving new devices over the holidays followed by declining interest or having enough titles banked after the Q1 spike, as well as a preference for giving physical books as gifts. Further proof is that paperback sales had an inverse trend throughout the year and steadily increased in market share over the course of the year. Hardcovers also had their strongest quarter in Q4. 16% of book purchases were gifts in the holiday quarter.


The report has also revealed that Canadians still prefer to buy their books in physical stores. 34% of book purchases were made in non-book retailers, 37% in bookstores and 25% online—print book purchases made online account for 19% of those online sales. The top reasons respondents said they chose brick-and-mortar bookstores were the convenience of the location, the selection available and ease of purchase. Non-book retailers, such as Costco and Walmart, were used for those same reasons, but pricing and the convenience of being able to shop for other items were cited more often.

Canadian Book Consumer 2012 – An infographic by the team at BookNet Canada

“We’ve found that the dominant factor in selecting a retailer is convenience,” says Pamela Millar, Director of Customer Relations at BookNet Canada. “Great location, what’s in stock and the opportunity to complete more than one errand—they all come down to convenience. Pricing comparison isn’t as big a factor as we might have guessed.”

KoboWhile sales of eBooks seem to have slowed down the battle for e-reader market share continues. In Canada Kobo continued to top the list. Kobo was at 25.2%, iPad at 14.0% and Kindle at 18.4%. In the US the eBook market seems to be more buoyant accounting for nearly 23% of publisher net revenues in 2012, up from 17% in 2011 and, astoundingly, 1% in 2008. Ten years ago, in 2002, the first year that the AAP measured the size of the ebook market, revenues from digital book sales accounted for 0.05% of the overall take.


I guess I’m a bit of a hybrid buyer, I prefer to read books on my iPad Mini but I find the online shopping experience less than exciting. So, I shop for books at my local bookstore but actually buy them from Kindle.


Bob Benedetti

Former RCAF Fighter Pilot Bob worked for CTV Montreal as a Reporter, Producer and Executive producer for 35 years retiring in 2004. Bob started reporting on personal technology in 1995 at CTV and continues today at Home Technology Montreal

  • Michael Black

    I’m not really surprised. I’m not sure ebooks really provide a great price decrease.

    First you have to buy an ereader, the price is going down and you can justify it by buying a general tablet, but that’s money otherwise spent on books.

    And I’m not smitten with the pricing of ebooks. I don’t buy hardcover books, not just the price but I don’t find them cozy. Maybe the extra cost is warranted for library books, but I can’t see the point of spending extra money to read the book early in hardcover. Maybe if I did routinely buy hardcover, the price of ebooks would seem more appealing.

    Just sampling mainstream ebook prices, they aren’t really much less than paperback prices. I suppose to some the convenience is good, but I have hundreds or thousands of books, so adding more isn’t going to change much. I don’t get something tangible for the price, and pay the same price, or sometimes even a higher price for the ebook.

    Besides, so many of the books I buy are used. No sense buying the latest Clive Cussler new when someone else will buy it, and then sometime later it will be available used for a few dollars. That makes the price of ebooks even less tempting.

    I got the Playbook in February last year, when they first hit $199. I decided it was better to spend a bit more and get a full blown tablet than just an ereader. I’ve read some books on it, but they have been out of copyright, particularly books that aren’t so easy to find. The relatively few new books I’ve bought since then, I’ve looked at the ebook price, and the savings (if any) aren’t tempting enough.

    MY expectation of ebook pricing is that they don’t have to print something (and the resulting issue of the unsold copies) and they don’t have to be shipped around, so they really should be lower. After all, most pricing is less related to cost, and more about optimizing sales. But that’s not what I see, they aren’t using ebook pricing to sell more copies, it’s about saving money and keeping profits.

    ON the other hand, there are books that I’ve never seen copies of other than the ones I own. And they aren’t in print as ebooks. Yes, that’s another issue, but if there’s a really good use for ebooks, it’s to get useful and desired books into print
    that have gone out of print. It works for things out of copyright, but for some reason,
    Clarke Wallace’s “Montreal Adventure” from about 1968 (two kids build shortwave radios, and overhear something, causing them to stumble onto an art robbery at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) isn’t an ebook. It should be this great thing, get a book back into print without having to print a certain number of copies (which may not find a market), and get some money for it, but instead that isn’t happening much.


    May 29, 2013 at 1:30 pm Reply
    • Bob Benedetti

      Thanks for the well thought out comment Michael.

      I was always too impatient to wait for the latest Cussler so I would buy hardcover. As a result I save quite a bit with an ebook.

      There is actually quite a bit of self publishing going on at Kindle. I have been able to read some pretty good books for less that two bucks.

      All said though, I think it will be a long time before ebooks push paper books out of the way because there are way too many people that prefer the tactile feel of a book in the hand.


      May 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm Reply

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