Amazon’s Ebook Market Share – Is It Big Enough?

Amazon Ebook Market is not the only store where you can reach your readers.

When it comes to publishing an ebook, Amazon is the first thing many people think of. Obviously, Amazon is a dominant player in online book and ebook retailing… However, when it is global publishing, doors are opened for many new stores, business models and channels. As an indie publisher you have to explore other opportunities as well, how to make your ebook publishing efforts more profitable on the long term. To be honest, it is always much wiser to have more partners than being dependent on one big partner. Because the future is always changing.

If you are an indie publisher, you can find even surprisingly lucrative business models in case of Scribd for instance. But of course, the end result always depends on the book category too. You can read more about the different business models here.

It may surprise you how many potential readers and what slice of your possible earnings you may lose if you publish only on Amazon ebook market. Why would you do that, especially if you already have your own ebook converted? Look at our numbers and you will understand why it is crucial to go to other ebook stores as well.

Publishdrive’s analysis on Amazon ebook sales

With PublishDrive we analyzed the sales numbers of our publishers signed up and found that in case of English titles only 45% of the sales volume came from the Amazon ebook market. It is unquestionably a huge share, but still, if you are exclusive with Amazon Kindle through KDP, you may lose 55% of your potential readers and sales. You may earn more money in those stores and markets you have never thought to be more suitable for your target group.

Amazon Kindle share percentages in PublishDrive

But why can our sales numbers show only 45%? Because

  • we have many new channels integrated for English language books (even in emerging markets)
  • we offer merchandising option for many of the stores
  • our operations show if there is any discrepancy of your books being available in stores
  • you can see your realtime sales so you may alter your marketing efforts as well

In the following, we will present up to date statistics on the US and UK market and introduce some emerging markets of the industry: Russia, Brazil and China.

The US market

Based on data collected by the authorearnings.com, Amazon is the biggest player of the US field. Including indie books (published without ISBN), Amazon accounts for 74% of US ebook purchases – and the rest is almost entirely shared between the Apple iBookStore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo US and the GooglePlay Books.

Amazon ebook market share in the US(Source of picture)

But how big is this US market? The Author Earnings reports that in January 2016 there were around a million paid ebook downloads daily from the Amazon US store only – and if we can believe the trends, this number just grew in the last couple of months.

It is also remarkable that while the share of the traditional publishing houses (including the Big 5) falls (probably partly due to the publishers artificially keeping the prices high), the indie market grows: individual authors sell more ebooks daily on Amazon than the publishers with ISBN put together. Indie ebooks account for around 33% of the total US ebook sales, and 37% of sales on Amazon.com; in 2015, 11% of the titles in Apple iBooks Bestseller List came from indie publishers, resulting in 20% of the sales.

Apple ebook market shareApple ebook market share(Source of pictures)

These sales numbers are not so surprising if we take into account that Amazon lets the publishers set the prices; the customers are drawn to the lower prices provided by indie publishers.

There is little data about indie sales outside of Amazon in the US: as most online shops provide flexibility and the possibility to revisit one’s business decisions every quarter, many authors decide to sell some of their books exclusively on Amazon, and the rest everywhere else – and change the platform as often as every three months. As we said it in our article about pricing strategies: there is no one size fits all solution.

The UK market

Being the second largest ebook market, the situation in the UK is just as interesting, as in the US. The biggest player, unsurprisingly, is Amazon.co.uk: they sell more ebooks than the smaller players of the US market put together – thus being the second largest retailer worldwide. The only unfortunate point being the 20% VAT applied to ebooks in the UK (which is not applied on print). Author Earnings data shows the distribution of UK market to be very different from the US one: in 2015, 12% of the bestseller titles of Amazon.co.uk were individually published, and 14% came from the Big 5. There is also a significant difference, when we look at sales numbers in the same category: 26% of the sales comes goes to indie publishers, and 31% to the Big 5.

Number of titles in Amazon UK's book bestseller listDaily unit sales of UK ebook bestsellers(Source of pictures)

A very interesting point of their analysis is based on comparing prices in the UK and in the US: they find that the a Big 5 published ebook on Amazon.com could cost 5 times more than an individually published one – in the UK, only 3 times more.

The Global Ebook Report points out that in 2013, every fourth book bought in the UK was an ebook; a growing tendency which is even more striking if we only consider adult fiction: 40% of the book purchases were digital. The UK bookmarket also works for export, targeting not only the scandinavian countries, Germany and Ireland, but also SouthEast Asia and China.

Emerging markets

There is nothing wrong with positioning for the US market, thus being the biggest. However, you are making a mistake if not considering the other large and emerging markets. According to the Global Ebook Report, in 2014 the US had the largest publishing market of the world, by 26%; followed by China (12%) and Germany (8%). The top 6 by value also includes Japan, France and the UK; the rest of the world has a share of 39%. (Note that this percentages include print as well.) Which is a pretty impressive number: who would want to miss out on over 40% of the potential sales? Since the economical crises has made an imprint on most of the book markets in Europe, most countries have only started a transition towards ebooks in the last couple of years. In the following, we will talk about ebook sales in Russia, Brazil and China, based on the findings laid out in the Global Ebook Report..


70% of Russian readers read ebooks – and 92% of these readers admit to getting their books “from the internet”, for free. The Russian book market has seen a couple of troublesome years recently with sales decreasing and big publishing chains closing down. However, reading is still really popular and writers and intellectuals occupy a prominent public role – points out the Global Ebook Report. As online piracy in Russia is still legal (with some considering piracy a noble fight for freedom of information and data), and the country’s pure size makes distributing and acquiring printed books difficult, ebook industry is blooming. This has been noticed by all the big players, who have been present in Russia since 2012: Apple, Google and the British WHSmith. But as the Russian gadgets seem to be more popular than any of the big player’s readers, the retailers have to sell their books in open, easily convertible formats.

Since Russia started to work towards regulating internet traffic and shutting down torrent sites in order to fight off illegal downloads, I believe that within a couple of years the Russian market are going to be even more attractive for publishers and retailers.


As all big retailers (Amazon, Apple, Google) are present in Brazil, we can have a fairly reliable picture of tendencies in the largest Latin American market. The interesting part is that based on data collected in 2013, Amazon and Apple are head to head in the number one position, each owning 30% of the market. When in 2014 the Brazilian government decided to digitally distribute textbooks to public school teachers and students (and buying over 400.000 tablets to go with it!), Amazon became one of the approved platforms of the distribution – alongside the local Saraiva. In terms of academic content, the CAPES federal organization purchased periodical licences and ebooks worth of US $71 million which content is available for university students free of charge. This resulted in an increased interest in the Brazilian market from the big names of the STM sector: Wiley and Springer.


As the country with the largest population, in 2013 China has overtaken America to become the world’s biggest e-commerce market (according to Morgan Stanley). After Amazon’s 2013 launch in the country, the most popular platforms for ebook purchases are China Mobile and China Unicom, followed by Amazon and 360. The potential publisher has to consider fix prices for ebooks and CEB, a domestic Chinese ebook format.

In terms of reading platforms, mobile devices enjoy almost exclusive preference (China being the world’s biggest market for smartphones), with a high percentage of readers reading fiction through apps. In terms of content, the market is being ruled by Shanda Literature: this is a platform for amateur writers who use it to build a community of readers. The most successful writers get the possibility to turn their works into printed books, using a revenue-sharing agreement with Shonda Literature.

If you are interested in any other countries and want us to find out more about them, or have some exciting data you would like to share with us, please do not hesitate to leave us a comment and we will do our best to answer it.

To sum up:

The numbers do not lie, so we believe in global publishing to all possible channels in a more transparent way. Amazon ebook market is very much important for all authors and indie publishers but do not forget that you may increase your sales by more than 100%. Just open your mind to new retailers in PublishDrive with a simple click.

If you are interested check our FAQ, or shoot an email to support@publishdrive.com, we are happy to chat with you!

Happy publishing!

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