For you number-lovers out there, and we know you are out there, here’s something a bit more speculative but still interesting. Retailer Matt Blind has used his very own arcane logarithm to calculate approximate Ebook sales numbers by dollars for the last few years. And here’s his chart, clickee for biggee. (Methodology is in the link.)

No idea if this is on target or even what it means except that…it looks like more and more ebooks will be sold! Imagine that. Blind does caution that it does not seem as if digital books have already completely cannibalized print sales. Here are some of his process notes:

• The only data available to me are ebook sales as reported by the Association of American Publishers: so these correspond only to US ebook sales from established publishing houses and does not include self-published ebooks.
• Merely looking at a dollar sales figure (again, the only data available) glosses over the fact that ebooks are sold at lower price points: unit sales of books will be higher than the dollar figure might suggest
• My projection is not the only interpretation – but I’ve tried some other models and ebooks sure look like they’re following a fairly common sigmoid growth curve
• …however, if ebooks do not merely cannibalize sales of other formats but instead push books into new genres, new business models, new retail channels, and effectively blow up books as we know them: why sure, I guess there’s no upper limit & my projection is wrong. You can make any assumptions you like along those lines. My graph represents a fairly short future time frame (3-5 years out) and a relatively stable publishing industry. (Well, stable other than the disruption currently happening due to ebooks.)


  1. sigmoid curves are a super fun aspects of calculus come to life! i’m not a mathematician, but you see them in everything from human population growth to sales figures. so the population of England (or most developed countries) from 1700 to today will resemble a sigmoid curve, as will sales of new products that become ubiquitous, like iPods.

    its very likely that ebook sales will follow a sigmoid curve. i have never checked but i’m sure hours of radio listened to and tv watched also follow similar curves during the time they debuted. basically anything goes – floor plateau > growth > ceiling plateau – will look something like that. since there has to be a limit for how much money people will spend on e-books, using the available sales figures and graphing a best fit sigmoid curve is probably the best way to project future sales. industry analysts might have more sophisticated models for shorter term projections but this looks pretty convincing for a big picture forward looking model.

    anyway, cool find and thanks for posting. and HOORAY FOR MATH!

  2. Yep, I love a good sigmoid curve! It’s the “don’t worry, this is all very normal behavior” comment of the modern boardroom.

    But one of the more interesting factors not taken into account here is that most of the big publishers (in books, not just comics) are now focusing on ebooks as the market indicator for new material. This means new authors will have their books go through an e-publishing cycle to help determine where strong markets are for the optimum print product penetration.

    As John Shableski pointed out in his articles here at The Beat, advance reader copies are now largely delivered as a digital copy. The collapse/desperation of major retail outlets means publishers need a more careful strategy towards deciding where their product goes and how many of them to print. The fascination the public has with new portable digital readers like Kindle and iPad, in which reading is only a small aspect of what the consumer is buying, means new opportunities to develop more effective information about a given book’s potential audience.

    Long and short of this means there will be a LOT more ebooks coming out in the next couple of years, potentially more of a focus than the actual print revenue, and that makes this sigmoid curve get a lot taller and a lot more acute before it finds the ceiling plateau.

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