Lockdown sends ebook sales into OverDrive

The coronavirus lockdown has boosted ebook sales and one of the channels showing the biggest rise is library distributor OverDrive.

Ebook distributor Smashwords does not normally share sales data but CEO Mark Coker has revealed its top six channels for March ranked by sales volume.

The percentage change reflects the increase or decrease over the sales outlet’s average sales for the prior two months of January and February 2020. January historically marks an ebook retailer’s best sales month of the year. The numbers are based on actual sales data for the 475,000 ebooks distributed by Smashwords.

March sales compared with the average of January and February:

  • Apple — Down 16%. This is a surprising drop.
  • Scribd — Up 22%. Scribd has been a solid performer over the last couple years and is now Smashwords No 2 top seller. 
  • Smashwords Store — Up 43%. The store held two major promotions in March. One of those promotions, Authors Give Back, has been extended through the end of May.
  • B&N — Up 2%. Slight uptick.
  • Kobo — Up 3%.
  • OverDrive — Up 64%. Smashwords was the first distributor to open OverDrive to self-published ebooks back in 2014.

Ebook distributor Draftdigital told Reedsy they’ve seen sales go up by over 25% across all retailers In April, with libraries up by over 100%.

Reedsy has also tried to estimate how much effect the lockdown has had on Amazon ebook sales by looking at the Amazon Best Seller Rank which ranks each book on the Kindle store based on recent sales and borrows. It’s obviously difficult to work out changes with very much accuracy but Reedsy’s calculations seem to imply that it’s taking around 25% more sales/borrows to reach a certain rank which would mean that Kindle ebook sales are showing a substantial rise.

Overdrive has been offering Draft2digital authors a special promotion opportunity to allow authors to temporarily opt into the cost-per-checkout (CPC) program at a reduced rate for libraries.

This promo is scheduled to run until April 30 but Overdrive plans to possibly extend the promotion as needed.

CPC allows libraries access to the same title for more than one user. Instead of a fixed price for a single copy, libraries are granted access to a title and then pay per each loan of the ebook, at a percentage of the purchase price rather than the full cost of a single ebook.

This saves on overhead for libraries but could potentially mean greater income opportunities for participating authors.

Ebook Pricing Requirements:
• Juvenile/YA: $0.49 per checkout
• Adult: $0.69 per checkout

Overdrive will change prices on your behalf, and this will not trigger Amazon price matching for any titles you include in the promotion.


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