PaidContent has posted this graph based on new data from Pricewaterhouse Coopers, projecting total trade book sales to hit nearly $11 billion by 2016 and account for half of the total North American book market. While overall industry revenue is expected to remain nearly flat during that time, digital content will begin to make up for the continued decline in print book sales by 2013.
The significance of these figures is that we're talking about sales now rather than units. Total North American book revenue is projected to reach $21 billion by 2016 - up just 1.1% from last year's $19.5 billion - with ebooks accounting for $11 billion of that number. This is, of course, assuming a consistent trajectory for digital growth, which will become increasingly difficult to maintain as the figures get larger and adoption rates begin to slow as they reach saturation. No one knows for sure at what point that will occur, or if we're anywhere near the top of that growth curve.
Although there have been some stunning numbers with regard to ebook growth lately (global ebook sales up 332%), these figures seem a little overly optimistic to me (well, not for the print industry). For one thing, PwCoopers is giving 2011 North American ebook sales as $2.69 billion, when the AAP statistics for last year show US digital sales at just under $1 billion, and I find it difficult to believe the difference of $1.69 billion being made up by Canadian/Mexican ebook revenues. According to an NRC report, English-language ebooks accounted for 10% of Canadian book sales last year, so I suppose it's possible. However, PwC bases its statistics on surveys and samplings rather than hard, fast data, so I'm more inclined to go with AAP stats. But for an overview of the general global landscape the projections are still revealing.
Elsewhere, we can see that Western European ebook sales are expected to increase, an expectation buoyed by this morning's announcement that the French Publishers' Association has dropped its lawsuit against Google's Digital Book Project, opening the way for a flood of new content to enter the European market. Latin America, for whatever reason, just doesn't seem to be interested, and the flatline for the Middle East/Africa region is likely due as much to a lack of access than anything (a general economic poverty notwithstanding).
The Asian Pacific market is shown collectively in the graph above as roughly doubling to $2.25 billion by 2016, while the chart below breaks out the major Eastern regions, with Japan accounting for the bulk of sales and growth. South Korea, whose digital market share is the largest in the world at 24.2%, will continue the slow and steady climb it has seen for some time as an early adopter nation, while China and Australia will show rapid growth as digital content becomes available for the first time, due both to new distribution channels and improvements in format and device capabilities for displaying Asian languages.