April 21, 2011, 3:17 PM

Sales of electronic books increase 200% in February

Consumers spent more than $90 million on e-books during the month.

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So many consumers received, or bought for themselves, electronic book readers over the holidays that by February e-book sales increased 202% from February 2010, the Association of American Publishers says.

Resellers sold $90.3 million in e-books in February compared with $29.9 million in the same month a year ago based on the net sales revenue from the 16 e-book publishers who supplied data, the association says.

The New York-based association says the e-book format continues to grow in popularity while conventional book formats are selling less.

Though sales of hardcover, paperback and mass market books for adults, young adults and children—at $156.8 million in February—were higher than for e-books, that total was 34.4% less than a year earlier.

Indeed, consumers are increasingly embracing e-books and e-book readers, says Dmitriy Molchanov, an analyst at Boston-based Yankee Group Research Inc.

By 2013, U.S. consumers will buy 381 million e-books, Molchanov says. That will be quadruple the number purchased in 2010. He also expects that e-book sales will grow by a 72% compound annual growth rate through 2013, reaching $2.7 billion in revenues that year.

February was particularly strong for e-book sales because many consumers made post-holiday electronic book purchases, fueled by the large number of electronic-book readers purchased during the 2010 holiday season, the Association of American Publishers says.

Additionally, many consumers chose to not only to buy recently published titles, but to download books published more than a year ago, what publishers call backlist titles. Many consumers often choose, when buying an author’s latest book, also to buy previous works by the same author, the association says.

People love books and publishers want to publish them in formats consumers want, Tom Allen, the association’s president and CEO, says in a statement. Publishers have embraced new technologies to meet consumer demand, he says.

E-book technology also means that publishers contend with a slim profit margin, Molchanov says. While Amazon.com Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc. do not disclose their e-book profit margins, Molchanov says other sellers make about 66 cents in profit from each $9.99 e-book.

“Even though margins are quite slim, they are making plenty of profits from the scale,” Molchanov says. “They’re just selling so many more books.

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