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Canadian eBook Market Plateaus

BookNet Canada announced its latest research suggests that the eBook market in Canada may have hit a plateau and that Canadians still prefer to buy books in physical stores.

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Unedited press release follows:

The Canadian Ebook Market Plateaus at 15%, Says New BookNet Canada Study

Holiday shoppers still prefer giving print books as gifts.

Toronto, ON – May 21, 2013 – The Canadian market for ebooks remains steady, according to a new report from BookNet Canada. Findings in The Canadian Book Consumer 2012: Annual Report show that paperback books (including mass markets) comprised 58% of all purchases in 2012. Hardcover made up 24% and ebooks 15%.

“The research suggests that the ebook market in Canada may have reached a plateau,” says BookNet Canada President and CEO Noah Genner. “Early 2013 data backs this up. So far, we’re seeing the same pattern repeating itself.”

Ebooks peaked in Q1 at 17.6% of unit sales and declined steadily over the rest of the year to hit 12.9% in the last quarter. The 5% decline is likely due to heightened sales in Q1 after receiving new devices over the holidays followed by declining interest or having enough titles banked after the Q1 spike, as well as a preference for giving physical books as gifts. Further proof is that paperback sales had an inverse trend throughout the year and steadily increased in market share over the course of the year. Hardcovers also had their strongest quarter in Q4. 16% of book purchases were gifts in the holiday quarter.

The report has also revealed that Canadians still prefer to buy their books in physical stores. 34% of book purchases were made in non-book retailers, 37% in bookstores and 25% online—print book purchases made online account for 19% of those online sales. The top reasons respondents said they chose brick-and-mortar bookstores were the convenience of the location, the selection available and ease of purchase. Non-book retailers, such as Costco and Walmart, were used for those same reasons, but pricing and the convenience of being able to shop for other items were cited more often.

“We’ve found that the dominant factor in selecting a retailer is convenience,” says Pamela Millar, Director of Customer Relations at BookNet Canada. “Great location, what’s in stock and the opportunity to complete more than one errand—they all come down to convenience. Pricing comparison isn’t as big a factor as we might have guessed.”

While pricing is a factor for some shoppers when selecting retailers, shoppers don’t often perform pricing comparisons. This suggests that showrooming, the practice of examining a product in a store and then buying it online for a lower price, may not be that widespread an issue for the book industry in Canada. 55% of respondents indicated they rarely or never compared book prices between stores.

On the digital side, the battle for e-reading device market share continues. Ebook readers planned to read on a variety of devices but Kobo continued to top the list. Kobo was at 25.2%, iPad at 14.0% and Kindle at 18.4%.

This report is based on the first four fieldings of a two-year study that began in January 2012. This edition will cover book-buying behavior, including genre, format, price tolerance, and retailer preference, and demographics of book-buying Canadians according to surveys from 2012.

Data for The Canadian Book Consumer 2012 was derived from a nationally representative panel of English-speaking book consumers. Each month a new group of respondents completed surveys about their book-purchasing behaviour for Bowker Market Research. Respondents qualified for the survey when they indicated they had purchased a minimum of one book, regardless of format, in the prior month. This process yielded a survey sample of 4,000 book consumers.

The survey findings are available for sale in a PDF report, and a substantial discount is available for BNC SalesData subscribers. An executive summary is also available at no cost. For more information and to order a copy of The Canadian Book Consumer 2012: An Annual Report, visit

BookNet Canada is the non-profit agency created by the Canadian book industry and the Department of Canadian Heritage to facilitate improvements in the book industry supply chain. It provides services and develops standards and certification in areas including electronic commerce, bibliographic data, and analysis of point-of-sales and other supply chain data.

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) for this project. / Nous reconnaissons l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada par l’entremise du Fonds du livre du Canada (FLC) pour ce projet.