Fake Ebook News


The Guardian reports the sensationalistic story that readers are abandoning eBooks and going back to print. But surprise, surprise: it's fake news.
Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% to £204m last year, the lowest level since 2011 – the year the ebook craze took off as Jeff Bezos’ market-dominating Amazon Kindle took the UK by storm.
It is the second year running that sales of consumer ebooks – the biggest segment of the £538m ebook market, which fell 3% last year – have slumped as commuters, holidaymakers and leisure readers shelve digital editions in favour of good old fashioned print novels.
There's no sugarcoating this. The Guardian story is simply a lie--and an easily disproved one.

They're using the same dishonest category error that I've exposed before. Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of having to repeatedly decapitate this publishing zombie meme, but the big fiction publishers, and their allies in the mainstream media who claim to report news but are also fiction publishers, just can't let these tired memes die.

Acknowledging the truth would mean admitting that they've miscalculated. Badly.

OK. Here are the facts, one more time. The Guardian story celebrating a decline in eBook sales and a concurrent rise in print sales is sourced from The Bookseller and the Publishers Association. Both only cite data from the UK. The former only counted sales from the Big Five traditional publishers. The latter relied on data from Nielsen Bookscan, which measures sales of books at the point of sale but, as far as I could determine, doesn't have access to Amazon's internal eBook numbers.

Did you spot the bait and switch? That's right. Once again, a mainstream news outlet conflates "The Publishing Industry" with "traditional publishers", totally ignoring indie.

To set the record straight, let's take a look at the latest Author Earnings report, which does track Amazon's sales numbers.

eBook Sales Channels
Right off the bat, we see that Amazon is by far the biggest eBook retailer on earth, including the UK. We also see that indie publishers are a majority of Amazon's eBook market.

Amazon eBook Market Share

Those two charts alone unmask the Guardian story for the cynical propaganda it is. But what we really want to know is, what's the actual state of eBook sales in this Year of Our Lord 2017?

Here are the highlights from Author Earnings:
  • "Between early 2016 and early 2017, overall Amazon US ebook sales grew another 4%"
  • "In other words, albeit slowly now, the overall US ebook market is still growing."
  • "Indie ebook market share, after the sudden sharp drop that we reported in October 2016, seems to have bounced back a little in early 2017."
  • "Big Five ebook market share, on the other hand, after a brief flirtation with recovery in October 2016, has fallen precipitously once again in early 2017, to just 20.8%"
  • “'Small/Medium Traditional Publishers,' as a cohort, have continued their slow, steady climb in unit market share, but their share of total consumer $ dollars spent on ebooks is rising far faster."
There you have it: another stake driven through the heart of this undead, and patently false, meme. Of course, we can be sure that the Big Five publishers will dig up the fake news of eBooks' decline right back up again--at least until they're out of business. For now and the foreseeable future, indie and small publishers are where the growth is at.

Not coincidentally, you can get in on the indie publishing excitement by checking out my thrilling Soul Cycle, the second volume of which is the first indie novel to win a Dragon Award.

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle



  1. Reports like this don't include ebooks published without ISBNs, which among indies would be most of them. That's part of the issue, though it's impossible to put numbers on it.

    Also,left-leaning institutions (like the Grauniad)are suspicious of indie publishing, because it's an information channel that they have no hope of controlling. This matters less for fiction than for nonfiction, when you have indie journalists with huge platforms (like Cernovich) publishing nonficton works that gnaw at the Narrative's vitals.

    I think last October was the heyday (heymonth?) of adult coloring books. This gave tradpub an unexpected boost for a little while. One doesn't hear much about them anymore.

    It seems to me that fake news of all sorts is a mechanism for release of emotional tensions and frustration. When I see fake news, I know that somebody somewhere nearby is getting their clocks cleaned.

    1. Author Earnings continues to be a cannonball of information against the tissue-paper lies of the TradPub Media.


  2. Nice job calling out the fake news. Probably a shopped story. They had to find a journalist who was bad at math. A hipster for print books who wasn't going to look into things too much. The wife of a struggling trad-pub author.

    1. Thanks. You might be on to something, there.

  3. Actually the article makes perfect sense to me. Really, the convenience of having my entire library in the palm of my hands and being able to get any book I want instantly gets kind of old after a while. Who here doesn't miss the fun and games of trying find an empty space to put up yet another bookshelf, or the great workout of carrying boxes and boxes of books on moving day? So yes, I expect ebooks to go the way of other useless technologies like radio, television, and the internet.

    1. Meh. I want both. More tech, more paper.

      More choices, not fewer.

    2. Me too, but I don't know anyone who is going to give up their tech for paper. The tech is too convenient.

  4. For the Guardian, this isn't fake news; this is wish fulfillment. They pray to their secular god that time will run in reverse for their own fortunes.

    See another blast from this rasping husk of paper pulp just last month, hoping that someone outside their well-insulated cocoon is listening to their fevered bleating:


    They are dying, just like the Big 5.

    Read their tagline from their active website at the end of their stories:

    "Since you’re here ... we’ve got a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever, but far fewer are paying for it. Advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.

    If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure."


    Oh, I feel like the Salt Monster from Star Trek. "More! More! More tears! Damn you, Leftist Scum, MORE TEARS!"

    1. Excellent point, re: stories like these as wish fulfillment. The Guardian is the Gob Bluth of meme magic.

    2. Can't take the Guardian to Mexico either. (Other reasons ... .)

  5. A few other points to note:
    The report is based on sales figures, comparing them to 2015. Simply put - if you sell one book in 2015 for £5, then two books in 2016 for £2 each - so £4 - then 2015 has 'higher' sales. This can be spun as a 'decline' (in sales, popularity, etc.) -no mention of number of books sold.
    Also, the Publishers Association (UK) uses data from Nielsen who, in the UK, don't track the whole market - I think you mentioned this in your linked post - and it seems they haven't disclosed how many publishers they do gather data from.
    In terms of an increase in sales of print books in 2016, there is perhaps a major factor - JK Rowling released a new Harry Potter book - when that happens, book sales go up everywhere!

    1. Bingo. The PA's stats are meaningless because their terms and methodology are so nebulous--purposefully, I suspect.

      The Guardian's research is even worse. The linked article links to another article to back up their bogus claims. One cites Nielsen, and the other cites the Publishers Association---who themselves cite Nielsen as their source!

  6. Brian

    I read excerpts of the article and one of excuses was that people don'the want to carry around a dedicated ebook reader. I thought yeah and so?
    Another reason was that once readers got their core library there weren't many other books to buy.

    That's when I laughed my head off. And what about building core libraries in other languages? I have a very small core in French and Spanish. I'd like to increase them but the Romance languages publishers are still obsessed with paper.
    It's an infuriating ideology. And it's exasperating me to no end

    1. "one of excuses was that people don'the want to carry around a dedicated ebook reader. I thought yeah and so?"

      Also, a lot of people read on their phones.

      "the Romance languages publishers are still obsessed with paper."

      I did not know that. It makes sense, though, because paper distribution is really all that trad publishers have going for them.

  7. Brian

    Recently it was Sant Jordi (aka International book day) and the Catalan press had a very interesting article about the state of ebooks in Spain. It seems that only 10% of the 80 000 books published annualy are ebooks.so that means that of the 100 million books available in Spanish only 10% are ebooks and the publishers aren't keen to offer them. So thst means a vast majority of books are only availanle on paper.

    Further some authours retain the digital rights but sell their print rights to the publishers. Problem is that the authours don't publish thie books in digital format. That's because the digital market is still very small (sure Amazon's there).

    Another reason is piracy well when you insist on charging the same price as a hardcover or paperback yeah that's quite rational.

    Yet another reason not mrntioned in the press is requirement to have a European creditcard to nuy from a lot of virtual bookstores.

    It's like the Guilds want to force people to read in paper and deny them the choice of both. And then they snivel how Spainish readers don't read as much as the Scandinavians or English speakers.

    I think that the ebook publishers at least the Catalans ones have to be outside of Spain.