Talking about a scalable business: here are the numbers (our numbers)

Everywhere I look, I keep reading sophisticated analysis on the fact that the ebook, my friend, won’t continue to grow at all like it used to. Then I discover that all this outstanding analysis is always based solely on the data of one American association (just one of them), the AAP which, of all the many possible limitations, certainly has one: it doesn’t have the ebook sales data from Amazon Kindle. Now, it would take much less than this to convince a shrewd commentator that the data is literally good for nothing, but that makes no difference.

As far as numbers are concerned, I prefer to talk about those that I know first-hand, the numbers of Simplicissimus Book Farm, whose main business consists in distributing ebooks: grouping together books of publishers (STEALTH) and self-publishers (Narcissus) in order to distribute them throughout all the available online bookstores, deducting a commission (5% on sales generated by STEALTH and 10% on sales generated by Narcissus).

Some warnings:

  • The data I’ll be presenting covers a time span that practically goes from when the ebook market actually emerged in Italy (end 2010 – beginning 2011) to the latest firm data available, that of last 31 March (i.e., very recent).
  • The data I’ll be presenting concerns the Italian market only, and does not include the numbers we’re beginning to obtain from investments made abroad, since about six months ago.
  • I’ll be presenting two types of data:
    1. the number of titles distributed (showing how big the catalogue of Italian books distributed by Simplicissimus Book Farm is and how it’s growing). Here we’re talking about single titles for payment ONLY (books are not counted twice if they’re available in several formats and free books are not counted at all);
    2. the value of transactions generated from this catalogue each month (in this case, in order to preserve data confidentiality as I’m required to for my shareholders, I’ll be using an index number, setting the value in euros of transactions generated in January 2011 to 100).

But let’s allow the graphs to do the talking.

In the graph below you can see the growth of the number of titles acquired and distributed on behalf of Publishers and Self-publishers (Narcissus):

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As you can note, the number of titles we distributed climbed from 300 in January 2011 to over 30,000 in March 2014: increasing a hundredfold in 3 years and two months. Now we’re by far the leading Italian distributor in terms of number of titles distributed (more than 40% of all titles available in Italy).

If we look at the same data in its monthly distribution, we discover that we’ve become5 times better at obtaining new titles from publishers and self-publishers: 300 new titles in the month of January 2011, 1500 new titles in the month of March 2014 alone:

grafico_3

But how many sales have these titles generated over time, month by month? Here’s the data:

grafico_5

If we’ve been good at collecting titles to be distributed from publishers and self-publishers, the market’s been even better: the value of monthly sales of ebooks has grown in 3 years and two months by as many as 15 times! If we set the one-month sales value of January 2011 to 100 euros, the one-month sales value for March 2014 has become 1500.

Perhaps this data, considering that the Italian book market is worth, just to give an idea, about one seventh of the German market, is enough to explain why we’ve decided to invest in expanding our services abroad, hiring personnel of various linguistic areas (area managers for STEALTH in order to acquire publishers and community managers to promote self-publishing of Narcissus.me): it seems to us that the growth of the ebook market isn’t that bad after all 😉

This post is also available in: Italian