eBook Market Share: Amazon, Apple and Kobo

It’s anyone’s guess what the total ebook sales for 2020 in the United States will amount to, but we predict that it will be somewhere between $5 to $7 billion. The figures for digital audiobooks will likely be $600 million to $1 billion in sales. While trade sales (paperback and hardcover) maybe close to $8 billion in sales.

There’s no denying that eBooks will remain popular for years to come, but the eBook market may see some changes at it attempts to attract new users. Here are some of the main trends to take note of throughout 2020:

Physical Books vs eBooks

Audiobooks on the rise: In a large survey done by PEW Research, the results showed that paperback books are still the most popular format among avid readers, with eBooks coming in at second place. Audiobooks were ranked third, but experts predict that audiobooks will rise in popularity to rival eBooks in the near future.

eBooks sales will soon overtake trade (physical) sales: When it comes to the general audience for eBooks, users between the ages of 25 and 34 read eBooks more than any other demographic, with 36% reporting to have read a digital book in 2019. Although people generally report reading more as they get older, the percentage of eBook users steadily declines within each age group. However, as people become more tech-savvy and libraries continue to embrace digital books, the ebook share of the book market revenue will likely surpass that of physical books by 2025.

The Future of Books

At some point, 10 or 20 years down the road, a child will look at her mother and say, “Mom, did people really used to cut down trees, drag them through the forest, put them on gas-burning trucks, drive them to a paper mill, use energy to convert them into paper, pollute the nearby river, then truck the paper to a printing press, then truck the books to a warehouse, then fly the books on a plane for 2-day delivery?”

Mom will say “Yes,” with some nostalgia in her voice.

Child will say, “Why didn’t they just keep the digital book on servers and deliver them wirelessly to your device?”

Market Shares by Company

The exact eBook market shares of the major players in the industry are rather difficult to come by, especially since Amazon rarely makes public statements about their position in the marketplace. According to writer Max Lakin from Magnolia Media Network, it’s estimated that Amazon’s share of the eBook market is around 67%, making it the leading retailer by a landslide.

Behind Amazon, the second largest seller of eBooks is Barnes and Noble. B&N’s Nook accounts for nearly 25% of eBook sales in the US. Apple’s iBooks (or Apple Books as it is now named) holds roughly 5% of the market share, and Kobo holds less than 3% in the US. However, Kobo is the most popular eBook and audiobook company in Canada, and it has outperformed Amazon’s Kindle Store in France, Japan, and Australia.

The figures above are based on Magnolia Media’s research. We think the US ebook market share looks more like this:

eBook Market Share

Amazon 81%
Nook 9%
Apple Books 7%
Kobo 3%

But don’t quote us, we are going off anecdotal information, and we don’t have data to support these figures.

The Future of Bookstores

As eBooks continue to become more popular, major bookstore chains have been forced to close their doors. But if you still love physical copies of your favorite books, not all hope is lost! Independent bookstores have started to thrive as readers seek unique experiences and feelings of community with other book lovers.

Successful indie bookstores, such as Waterstones, follow what’s known as the 3Cs model to keep loyal readers coming back: community, curation, and convening. Although eBooks may be the most convenient option, readers will continue to peruse one-of-a-kind bookstores well into the future. That said, many of these stores many not survive the COVID pandemic.

The future of book stores, sadly, might just be online. Many online bookstores are currenlyt thriving, particularly those that sell discounted, used and rare books. For more on these discount book retailers see: Top 20 Online Bookstores.


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