Total U.S. book export sales for 2011 were $357.4 million (71.9 million units), up a modest 7.2% over 2010. Total eBook sales were $21.5 million (3.4 million units), up 332.6% from 2010's $4.9 million total revenue. That makes ebooks just a little over 6% of the global book market, with a lot of room to grow.
The AAP report breaks down the print and ebook stats for four of the leading regions in the West in terms of rapid growth:
- U.K. ebook sales increased by 1316.8%, while print was up 10.4%
- Africa saw ebooks rise by 636.8%, with print up 17.1%
- Continental Europe grew its digital by 218.8% and print by 9.5%
- Latin America saw ebooks grow by 201.6%, while print was up by 9.7%
No statistics were given for Eastern regions. U.S. publishers currently export roughly 90% of their titles to retailers in 200 countries.
This rapid increase in digital adoption worldwide is the result of markets opening in many regions for the first time, with new Amazon stores in Italy and Spain, new devices now being released internationally soon after their U.S. launch, if not day and date (although there's still a significant lag with, for example, the Kindle Fire not yet available in the U.K. six months after its launch). Instant access to digital content via global networks is becoming more widespread with distribution and marketing limited only by international trade agreements and copyright laws. Within ten years there will be no limits at all, with anyone able to buy a book anywhere at any time, and start reading it instantly (barring governmental restrictions on free speech and commerce, that is).
The implications of this cannot be understated. What is occurring is the creation of a one-world market, a global economy with no borders or barriers, with a resulting increase in literacy and intellectual communication. What the Internet has done for information, ebooks will do for reading in a way that print just can't achieve due to its cost to print and ship. What excites me most when I see these numbers is that it represents a hunger for books, for reading, for intellectual stimulation that stretches the mind and broadens the horizons. With the overwhelming glut of media available these days, it's good to see that kids still want to read, that people love to dive into a good book, to curl up with their Nook or Kindle and get lost. Words have power, to transform, to change, to alter the world we live in, and the more people read them the more possible those changes are.