December 17, 2009, 12:00 AM

U.S. e-book content revenue will top $500 million next year, says Forrester

Through September retailers have paid publishers more than $109 million for U.S. e-book content, compared to $52.4 million for all of 2008. With e-books’ strong growth, Forrester predicts overall e-book content revenues will top $500 million next year.

For the first three quarters of this year, the amount that retailers have paid publishers for U.S. e-book content topped $109 million compared to $52.4 million for all of 2008, according to a new Forrester report, “The Battle for the E-book Consumer.” The report suggests that considering the growth rate of e-book trade sales, 176% this year, overall e-book revenues will top $500 million by next year.

“When MP3 players came out, most consumers owned CDs that they could easily burn to a computer and download to a device,” says the report. “Not so with books. While catalyzed by single-function e-readers like the [Amazon.com Inc.’s] Kindle, e-book content sales will occur across multiple devices, including desktops, laptops, netbooks and smartphones.”

Indeed, a mail survey of 4,711 consumers found that shoppers aren’t only interested in reading books on an e-book reader. 19% say they would read e-books on a desktop, 11% on a notebook computer and 5% on a smartphone. Content sales on all those devices will complement sales on e-book readers, the report says, even though there is overlap between consumers who are interested in reading on multiple devices.

The survey also found that among consumers interested in reading e-books on any device, more shop at retailers like Wal-Mart and Target than at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, two primary players in the e-book space because of their e-readers, the Kindle and Nook. 61% said they have shopped at Wal-Mart in the past 30 days and 55% at Target, while only 38% have shopped at Amazon and 27% at Barnes & Noble. Given Barnes & Noble’s lower traffic, it will have to “double down” on the Nook to beat Amazon, the report suggests.

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