Measuring Apple's iBook market

Apple's iBook sales may look flat when compared to its music and apps offerings, but it's still a crucial element of the company's overall iTunes value chain.

In June of 2011 Apple announced that 130 million ebooks were sold through iTunes. In October of 2012 it announced that 400 million sold.

That means 270 million ebooks were sold in 16 months. Or about 17 million units per month, on average. It also suggests 2012 ebook sales of about 200 million units. The following graph shows the download rate of books relative to apps and songs:

The download rate looks paltry but we need to remember that apps have a very low average selling price (about 23 cents including in-app purchases) and that songs are probably priced around $US1.1 on average. In contrast each ebook could be generating about $US10 per download.

However, that may be a bit high. We don’t know the mix of lower priced and higher priced books. Many best sellers are $US13 or $US14 but there might be some free books in the mix as well.

If I choose a more conservative $US9 average selling price and assuming a 70 per cent share for the publisher then Apple’s iBooks generated about $US1.3 billion in payments and grossed about $US1.8 billion.

In the past few posts I measured the iTunes App ecosystem and the Music economy. With the iBook market now measured we can derive the size of the only remaining media type: video.