Shocka! eBooks Sales Are Down! And Why This Is Very Wrong

Audiobook sales are up and eBook sales are down according to The Times.

Full article here but due to The Times paywall barrier you can read more about this on the Independent article.

But more importantly, is this true? Yes and no.

tl;dr: We don’t really know because Amazon doesn’t release their sales figures and eBooks don’t require an ISBN.

Audiobook sales are up and that should be no surprise because everyone is attached to their phone with headphones and Amazon is pushing their Audible audiobook subscription service. Simples.

However, are eBooks really down? Judge for yourself…

The report from consulting firm Deloitte can only count books with an ISBN. How many independent authors publishing ebooks do you think have bought ISBNs? 10%, 40%, 80%?

It’s more likely to be less than 1% because eBooks don’t require them.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re publishing through Amazon, Smashwords, or Draft2Digital, ISBN purchases are not required. In fact, Amazon issues its own ASIN code, and Smashwords and Draft2Digital will give you a free ISBN. We’ll never know the exact sales figures for eBooks because Amazon doesn’t release them and they have 80% of the market share.


I’ve got 6 titles published with Amazon and have never bought an ISBN. Not only that, but most of my sales (like 10x more) are in the USA. Deloitte’s report only counts the UK. I can report that my sales the US and Japan dwarf my UK sales. And Germany is set to be the next biggest sales channel for writers, as Amazon has just opened up advertising in Germany.

When do you definitely need an ISBN?

When you’re publishing a print book outside of Amazon (wide, as it’s known). An ISBNs sole purpose is to record the publisher and is needed for each format (For most people this means each Print, or Large Print, edition) unless you’re given one for free by the Publisher or live in a country that dishes them out like Smarties (I’m looking at you Canada! *shakes fist*).

And, in my opinion, one should only publish wide (with your own ISBN) after there is proven demand (sales) for your book. In other words, if you ain’t selling on Amazon, with its 80% market share, then it’s probably going to be a waste of money trying to sell your book wide!


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