eBook sales in Canada were strong in 2021


Canadians continued to enjoy reading e-books. More than half of all publishers (52%) saw their eBook revenue increase compared to 2020 and just over a quarter of all publishers (28%) saw their audiobook revenue increase over the of the same period. This bodes well for the digital publishing industry as well as companies that sell e-readers and e-books, like Amazon and Kobo.

In 2021, e-book revenues were around 40% top-list and 60% back-list. This is the same as the distribution of print book sales reported by BNC SalesData, where 40% of the value sold in 2021 was top-list and 60% bottom. Most publishers (59%) saw increases in eBook revenue from 2020 to 2021. While small and medium publishers saw the biggest increases, large publishers were the most likely to see declines.

Where do Canadian publishers sell their e-books to consumers? The most popular e-book retailers were Amazon (76%), Kobo (71%) and Apple (68%). The rest of the channels include Barnes and Noble, Google Play Books, and Scribd.

What about audiobook sales? For 28% of publishers, revenue from audiobook sales increased in 2021 compared to 2020. This is especially true for large and medium-sized publishers: 43% of large publishers and 40% of medium-sized publishers reported an increase audiobook sales in 2021. By comparison, 20% of small publishers reported revenue increases for audiobooks. Publishers of all sizes reported audiobook revenues unchanged from 2020 to 2021 – 14% of large publishers, 15% of small publishers and 25% of medium-sized publishers.

In 2021, more than half of Canadian publishers produced audiobooks (53%). Most publishers produced audiobooks with the help of a third-party vendor (42%), but 19% had in-house facilities to do so. As expected, the majority of in-house production was done by large publishers (43%), but 21% of medium-sized publishers and 15% of small publishers also did so. Since 2015, the number of publishers producing audiobooks directly or through a partner has increased – from 16% in 2015 to 37% in 2016 and 61% in 2017 and 2019.

In 2021, as in 2019, the most popular audiobook retailers for consumer sales were Audible (40%), Apple (39%) and Amazon (37%). The rest of the retail channels include Kobo, Google Play Books, Scribd, and audiobooks.com.

These e-book sales statistics are courtesy of Booknet Canada, which recently conducted a survey. Most of the respondents, 65%, were small publishers with gross revenues in 2021 of less than C$1 million. The rest were made up of medium-sized publishers (26%) with revenues between $1M and $9,999,999 and large publishers (9%) with revenues of $10M or more. You can download the full report from the Good e-Reader library.