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April 10 2012

State of the Computer Book Market, part 5: Wrap-Up and Digital

In this final post, (posts 1-4 are available here), I will provide a summary of the first four posts, provide some insight into a view of top authors, and include data on electronic books and how parts of the digital world are surpassing the print world.

Here is a quick summary of posts 1-4.

In 2011 the book market, as a whole, saw about -9.25% fewer units sold than in 2010. The tech book market was up by 2% in 2011, so it out performed the whole market. Yet our data, which is based on the Top 3000 titles for each week, shows only 0.7% growth. This means that the majority of the growth was generated by the titles that produced very few copies and may not have made it into a weekly report for a given week in 2011. The market continued to follow its seasonal pattern, getting off to a fast start in 2011, taking its typical nose-dive downward in July, and recovering in the fall. Yet there were some anomalies with higher peaks and valleys in the trend-lines for 2011. These anomalies were caused by Borders Books (BGI) going out of business.

There were 21 weeks in 2011 that were ahead of the same week in 2010. In 2010 there were only 11 weeks that were ahead of the prior year's unit sales. There were 442 more titles (from all copyright years) that made it into the Top 3000 reports during 2011, and 268 more in 2010 than 2009. This demonstrates that the threshold to make a Top 3000 report was lower than any other year. The average units per title, for all titles not just new, increased slightly from 37.95 in 2010 to 37.96 in 2011. As far as new 2011 titles, there were 349 fewer titles published that made the dataset, but they averaged 3.4 more units per title and averaged 1 less page per title, and on average cost $0.80 less than 2010. Again, these titles had a publish date during 2011.

The biggest winners in growth order are: Tablet, Mobile Programming, Windows Consumer, Security Topics, Hardware Topics, Social Web, Computers and Society, Cloud Computing, Information Technology, and Data Topics. The areas with the largest drop in units were, in descending order: Web Page Creation, Digital Photography, Mac OS, Flash, Web Programming, Web Design Tools, Personal Computers, Linux, Software Project Management, and Personal Database. In the top performing area of Mobile Programming, iOS was nine times as large as Android in 2009, and roughly 2.5 times as large of a category in 2010, and today sells only 1.2 times as many copies of Android books to developers.

From a publisher's perspective, Pearson regained the second spot at the end of 2011, behind Wiley and slightly ahead of O'Reilly. The two imprints of O'Reilly and Dummies continue to have the most diverse publishing programs due to their strong performance in all six tech categories.

The number one title, from a dollar perspective, was PMP Exam Prep, Sixth Edition: Rita's Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam and from a unit perspective, My iPad 2. From a dollars perspective, the PMP book has ranked in the top two since 2005. The number one programming language for three years running (2009, 2010, and 2011) was Java, with JavaScript and VBA also showing continued strong growth in 2011. That's the quick review.

Now let's turn our attention to the most important ingredient in publishing — authors. Authors are the entities that create all types of content. And there are all types of authors. Some are really like small publishing houses with "co-authors" doing most of the heavy lifting. Then there are those who do all the lifting: editing, writing, testing, and coding of the content themselves, and then move on to help promote, market and sell. These latter activities are what contribute to what we call an author platform. Some authors have an inherent platform by who they are or what their 9-5 job is, while others have to work hard to cultivate their platform. The most successful authors in our dataset have figured out both the upfront creation of content and the end-game of helping with marketing and sales. The table below shows the top 15 authors for 2011 and what their rank is for both 2011 and lifetime units. I'm also showing what their % Units '11 was so you can see the percentage of their lifetime units that they sold in 2011. A few did really well in 2011 and yet lifetime are not a top 10 author. Scott Kelby and David Pogue did not have outstanding numbers in 2011 but are the top two lifetime authors from a units perspective. Gary Rosenzweig and Patrick Kanouse both had outstanding sales in 2011 but are nowhere near top 15 authors from a lifetime perspective.

Author_List 2011 Rank All Time Rank % Units '11 Paul McFedries 1 6 17.68% Andy Rathbone 2 3 9.18% Gary Rosenzweig 3 61 59.19% Nancy C. Muir 4 24 25.26% David Pogue 5 1 7.57% Greg Harvey 6 4 9.10% Edward C. Baig, Bob LeVitus 7 44 41.49% Patrick Kanouse 8 148 90.02% Brad Miser 9 30 28.52% Dan Gookin 10 5 7.75% Stephen L. Nelson 11 8 9.49% John Walkenbach 12 10 10.17% Wallace Wang 13 13 11.10% Scott Kelby 14 2 4.55% Peter Weverka 15 19 11.41%

The noticeable change is that Scott Kelby takes the number one spot from a dollar perspective even though David Pogue sells more units. Books with slightly higher prices enable this movement in the position/rank. Notice that Rita Mulchay does not make the Top 15 for units sold, and yet as an author her books are ranked number seven in dollars generated. Another interesting observation is that there are about six authors that are in the mix for the top spot all-time, yet there is a significant drop-off after the top six. In the dollars view, the drop-off is even more significant after the top two authors.

When you look at the data for the top 15 authors (basically, who has produced more units and dollars), you get the following two charts, showing lifetime sales (2004-2011).

Units Dollars LifeTimeAuthorUnits.jpg

In 2011, Paul McFedries had his name on 56 different books (ranging from 2001 through 2011) that made our list, for an average of 1,937 units per book. His books sold the most units in 2011 but his average was the lowest of the all time top-five authors. His total was about 22,000 more units than David Pogue who saw 16 of his titles make the list with an average of 4,789 per title.


Electronic distribution and sales

Now let's move past print sales in 2011 — or at least partially away from traditional channels of distribution — to discuss e-distribution. The three charts immediately below are from Bowker, which has recently released its Results Of Global eBook Research. The charts show three interesting graphs about awareness of for-pay content, digital consumption by gender, and digital consumption by age. What is interesting to me is not that Indian males lead the way in both digital downloads and purchasing for-pay content, but rather that more women than men in the U.S. and U.K. are consumers of digital content. It is also no surprise, at least to me, that the 25-34 age group is the most active in consuming digital content.

Click on each image to view a larger version.

Awareness of Paid Content Digital Consumers by Sex Bowker Digital Paid Awareness Bowker Penetration of Buyers by Sex Digital Consumers by Age Bowker Penetration of Buyers by Age

Now to take you into the tech book digital market, let's look at what has happened in the past few years with O'Reilly products. The chart immediately below shows our digital products aggregated into one number and then plotted by year and month. This gives you a perspective of how things are changing. What it does not show is that early digital copies were all PDF files that were pretty clumsy and not as useful. Now we offer our content in virtually any form our readers prefer. So with Mobi and EPUB, we are seeing the less useful PDF decline significantly. But the chart below groups all digital forms together. Only two months in 2011 were not ahead of 2010. Those two months were June and July, which coincidentally coincided with the Borders' liquidation of physical products.


I also think it is important to look at what O'Reilly customers purchased when visiting The chart below shows our content mix for the previous two years. The only thing declining in 2011 was our total sales for print products. Rough Cuts are early access editions of our content that are accessible on Safari. As you can see, our ebooks outsell everything by nearly 4 to 1.


What I am not sure exists is a good indicator of what the startup community uses for technical content and books. But if I had to bet, I would wager on ebooks direct from the publisher would be the preferred format in the startup world.

The four charts below show O'Reilly revenue and units growth through The reason I am showing these is because the same content that goes into our print books is available in various digital forms. It is quite obvious that our customers prefer to shop on for digital copies.

The two charts on the left are showing revenue (top-left) and units (bottom-left) for 2011 exclusively. The two charts on the right are both revenue and units but are showing the trend for the previous four years. From talking with other publishers, this high-growth trend for digital books is indicative of what is happening in the market. The ebooks are just digital versions of our print products. We have not come to a point yet where the digital edition is a native creation that is a blend of live, editable code, video, text, images, links, assessment tools, and other resources all working together. At this point in time, most digital products are typically print books with a few links and some color for good measure. But don't blink because the tech book market will change quickly to these more blended content types.

O'Reilly Product Mix - Revenue 2011 O'Reilly Print vs. eBook - Revenue Trend Ecom_1.jpg Ecom_2a.jpg   O'Reilly Product Mix - Units 2011 O'Reilly Print vs. eBook - Units Trend Ecom_3.jpg Ecom_4.jpg

Again, this data is taken from direct sales for O'Reilly and, and may not represent the whole computer book market. One point that was recently brought in discussions at O'Reilly by our VP of online is that O'Reilly is selling more copies of digital editions than any other distributors that carry our digital copies. I think that may be due to the fact that we have DRM-free content that allows you to move your copy of your purchase to another device. For another perspective on DRM, I wrote this for our author newsletter a while back and I still believe that the ideas are sound. Have a look here.

Another key ingredient to understanding what is happening in the digital world is to look at Safari Books Online. Safari is a subscription service with more than 500,000 users. Its main focus is its B2B service that allows developers from many of the largest companies in the world to have access to technical books from most of the major publishing houses and imprints. One notable difference is that the categories with consumer-oriented titles, including the Digital Media titles, do not perform as well in Safari. Developer titles rule in Safari; so as a proxy, Safari may be one of the better predictors of a tech book market. As you can see from the chart to the left, our content in Safari is growing at a nice steady rate. In fact it is safe to say that Safari represents the second largest distribution channel for O'Reilly, with Amazon still occupying the top spot and O'Reilly direct battling for third. It will be interesting to see how the distribution of technical content unfolds in the coming years.


If you look at word clouds for the titles published in 2011 for all books, and the ones found on Safari for O'Reilly during 2011, you notice some similarities. Notably that "Development" and "Programming" are big in both images, but slightly larger on Safari. I was initially not sure why "Control" was so large on Safari, but after a bit of digging I found that Tidbits Publishing has a series called "Take Control" and O'Reilly Media is a distribution partner for them in Safari.


All print titles

Safari for O'Reilly

Thank you for reading these posts. If there is something that you are itching to see / understand more clearly, please let me know and I will try to help. I plan to excerpt updated pieces of these posts on Twitter or Google+ throughout the year. They'll come from @mikehatora or +Mike Hendrickson and will likely get re-tweeted by @oreillymedia or +O'Reilly on Google+.

April 06 2012

State of the Computer Book Market, part 4: The Languages

In this fourth post (see posts one, two and three) on the State of the Computer Book Market, we will look at programming languages and drill in a little on each language area.

Overall, the market for programming languages was up slightly at 1.15% in 2011 when compared with 2010. There were 6,435,247 units sold in 2011 versus 6,361,178 units sold in 2010, which is an increase of 74,069 additional units. Java was the biggest language again and experienced healthy growth of 13.46% or 33,930 more units in 2011 than 2010, while PHP occupied the opposite end with the biggest decrease at -26,994 fewer units year-over-year or a -22.50% rate of change.

Before we begin to drill in on the languages, we thought it would be best to explain our "language dimension." When we group books by their language dimension, we categorize them by the language used in their code examples. So Flash Programming with Java would be in our Flash atomic category, but the language dimension would be Java. Similarly, our Head First Design Patterns book contains examples written in Java, so it too carries the "Java" tag on the language dimension.

To provide some perspective, 2010 and 2011 have been a mixed-bag of results for tech publishing, meaning there were some bright spots with some of the technologies and some definite low areas too. The chart directly below does not include books that are method-oriented, about project management, about consumer operating systems, or books without language-oriented material. So this is a different view of the market than the overall view found in post 1 of this series. You can see all languages on a week-by-week basis while showing that the the languages closely mirrored the overall market found in post 1. In other words, the graph for Languages shows that 2011 was a roller-coaster for languages too.


Java continues to be the number one language from book units sold and dollars. There is some shuffling going on with the languages tough. JavaScript is very hot now, as is R. Likely a result of Android and big data driving folks to these languages. Java grew 13.46% or roughly 33,930 additional units in 2011 and JavaScript doubled the growth rate of Java at 27.18% and an additional 61,758 units in 2011. PHP and C++ switched places in 2011 where PHP produced 126,994 units in 2011 and fell to #6 and C++ moved into 5th with 19,207 additional units. Only three languages kept their 2010 ranking, Java at #1, Objective C at #4, and Python at #8. As you can see in the 2010-2011 Top 20 languages chart below, Java has a significant lead in the language race with JavaScript moving up quickly.

2010-2011 Top 20 Languages


If you look at the chart below, you will see which languages were responsible for the most units sold between 2004 and 2011. The chart is basically the sum of units each year for the respective language. The top ten languages generated unit sales of 10,283,109 for the 8-year period, while the second ten generated 2,910,636 in the same period. The top ten languages represented roughly 72% of units sold during this period. With so many languages to choose from, makes me wonder if any language will every see the numbers that Java experienced in the early 2000 timeframe.


A treemap view of the programming Languages


In the treemap view above, which compares the last quarter of 2011 with the last quarter of 2010, you'll notice balance of green, red and black areas. This pretty much indicates that the last quarter of 2011 was roughly the same as the last quarter of 2010 from the programming languages perspective. Most of the bright green, which indicates rapid growth, is in the bottom right hand corner and small in size. This means there was some growth with small languages in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Before we dive in, let's look at the high-level picture for the grouping of languages. I have grouped these languages by total number of units sold between 2004-2011. As you can see in the table below, the Large and Major languages were up collectively, and everything from Mid-Major and below was down. However books where the language was the focus, ended up 74,688 ahead of 2010 even though the Mid-Major and below lost -15,120 units compared to last year.

Group Unit Range Y2010 Units Y2011 Units 10MketShar 11MketShar Large 50,000 — 200,000 1,323,608 1,389,650 81.09% 79.72% Major 10,000 — 49,999 220,350 244,116 13.50% 14.00% Mid-Major 3,000 — 9,999 77,969 68,980 4.78% 3.96% Mid-Minor 1,600 — 2,999 17,822 17,739 1.09% 1.02% Minor 400 — 1,599 9,364 9,546 0.55% 0.52% Linelist 100 — 399 15,210 10,350 0.42% 0.23% TheRest < 100 2,365 995 0.14% 0.06%

For the sake of grouping and presenting this information in a more readable format, we have classified the categories for the languages in this way with the following headers:


  • Language: Name or short name of the language


  • 2010 Units: Units sold in 2010
  • 2011 Units: Units sold in 2011


  • 2010 Titles: Number of Titles making Bookscan 3000 in 2010
  • 2011 Titles: Number of Titles making Bookscan 3000 in 2011


  • 10Mkt Share: 2010 Market Share
  • 11Mkt Share: 2011 Market Share

The following table contains data for the Large languages. As you can see, 6 of the 11 top languages experienced growth in 2011 and were led by JavaScript impressive growth and Java's continued strength. Objective-C has experienced a second year of declining units but seems to have slowed the decline. What is up with C++? Why is this language still growing? Is there something going on with devices that is fueling the growth of C++?

Large Programming Languages — 50,000 — 200,000 units in 2011

*Large* U N I T S T I T L E S M A R K E T S H A R E Language 2010 Units 2011 Units 2010 Titles 2011 Titles 10Mkt Share 11Mkt Share Java 219,031 251,710 374 420 13.42% 14.45% JavaScript 165,910 228,527 180 243 10.16% 13.12% C# 208,450 181,497 271 305 12.77% 10.42% Objective C 151,229 140,679 89 138 9.27% 8.08% C++ 110,624 129,373 196 201 6.78% 7.43% PHP 146,219 119,203 173 180 8.96% 6.85% VBA 64,443 92,954 71 77 3.95% 5.34% Python 69,805 78,200 95 109 4.28% 4.49% SQL 57,184 57,425 96 108 3.50% 4.30% ActionScript 71,797 56,075 99 114 4.40% 3.22% .net Languages 58,916 54,007 83 83 3.61% 3.10%

Here are the top titles for the Large languages:

O'Reilly Head First Java, Second Edition O'Reilly Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript, First Edition Dummies Android Application Development For Dummies APress Beginning iPhone 4 Development: Exploring the iOS SDK O'Reilly JavaScript: The Good Parts

You'll notice in the Major languages that Ruby had the biggest growth among this grouping. And the R language had significant growth and surpassed Perl in sales units. Perl used to be one of the largest languages around and is now ranked #19 among the languages. PowerShell experienced it second consecutive year of growth in 2011.

Major Programming Languages — 10,000 — 49,999 units in 2011

*Major* U N I T S T I T L E S M A R K E T S H A R E Language 2010 Units 2011 Units 2010 Titles 2011 Titles 10Mkt Share 11Mkt Share Visual Basic 47,925 42,272 89 87 2.94% 2.43% Ruby 24,434 37,760 49 56 1.50% 2.17% C 38,786 36,828 92 82 2.38% 2.11% Powershell 19,861 28,520 26 30 1.22% 1.64% Shell Script 25,068 24,004 20 22 1.54% 1.38% R 11,431 20,072 18 26 0.70% 1.15% Transact SQL 17,507 17,308 28 27 1.07% 0.99% Perl 16,658 15,786 32 28 1.02% 0.91% Processing 9,053 10,791 9 11 0.55% 0.62% SAS 9,627 10,775 27 27 0.59% 0.62%

Here are the top titles for the Major languages.

Prentice Hall The C Programming Language Prentice Hall Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming Dummies SQL For Dummies SAS Publishing The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fourth Edition O'Reilly SQL Pocket Guide

Mid-Major Programming Languages — 3,000 — 9,999 units in 2011

The news in this set of languages is that 3 of the 11 languages saw growth in 2011 so the grouping as a whole is off by about 18.35%. This is partially due to a couple of the languages moving up to the prior category — most notably R and SAS..

*Mid-Major* U N I T S T I T L E S M A R K E T S H A R E Language 2010 Units 2011 Units 2010 Titles 2011 Titles 10Mkt Share 11Mkt Share Pl/Sql 10,774 9,322 24 35 0.63% 0.52% Smalltalk 9,294 8,716 2 2 0.54% 0.48% MatLab 8,332 8,504 22 27 0.49% 0.47% SPSS 8,973 7,598 16 18 0.53% 0.42% Basic 5,540 6,168 7 10 0.32% 0.34% VBScript 10,849 5,940 12 12 0.64% 0.33% Assembly 4,391 3,645 18 20 0.26% 0.20% Lua 6,309 3,636 7 8 0.37% 0.20% MDX 5,140 3,626 8 8 0.30% 0.20% nxt-g 1,172 3,535 4 5 0.07% 0.20% F# 4,939 3,285 7 6 0.29% 0.18%

Here are the top titles for the Mid-Major languages.

Dummies Beginning Programming For Dummies Microsoft Press Microsoft Visual Basic 2010 Step by Step Sams Sams Teach Yourself Visual Basic 2010 in 24 Hours Complete Starter Kit Oxford University Press Getting Started with MATLAB: A Quick Introduction for Scientists and Engineers Dummies SPSS For Dummies

Mid-Minor — 1,600 — 2,999 units in 2011

The news in this category is the growth of functional languages, like Scheme, Scala, Haskell, Alice and Lisp. These languages showed a nice 51.38% growth in 2010 and another 11.17% growth in 2011.

*Mid-Minor* U N I T S T I T L E S M A R K E T S H A R E Language 2010 Units 2011 Units 2010 Titles 2011 Titles 10Mkt Share 11Mkt Share Scala 2,531 2,844 5 5 0.15% 0.16% Haskell 1,051 2,129 5 6 0.06% 0.12% Lisp 1,684 2,038 4 6 0.10% 0.11% Bash 1,715 1,950 2 2 0.10% 0.11% Scheme 1,479 1,891 8 6 0.09% 0.10% VHDL 1,785 1,802 18 15 0.10% 0.10% Alice 2,713 1,745 10 9 0.16% 0.10% UnrealScript 3,028 1,736 3 3 0.18% 0.10% Blitzmax 1,836 1,604 2 2 0.11% 0.09%

Here are the top titles for the Mid-Minor languages.

Artima Programming in Scala: A Comprehensive Step-by-step Guide O'Reilly bash Pocket Reference No Starch Press Land of Lisp: Learn to Program in Lisp, One Game at a Time! No Starch Press Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!: A Beginner's Guide Sams Mastering Unreal Technology, Volume I: Introduction to Level Design with Unreal Engine 3

Minor Languages — 1,000 — 1,599 units in 2011

This category of languages saw 4 of the 7 languages sell more units in 2011. There was roughly a 1.91% increase in units sold year-over-year. The biggest gains were Puppet and Stata. Even if there was only one book per language in this grouping, it would be hard to financially justify a print product because of economies of scale; unless of course the publisher of a title is selling lots of copies direct on their website or direct to corporations or colleges. The combination of digital and print may help some of the titles below this point actually make more financial sense. My experience says anything below this point is not financially beneficial to the publisher or author, yet there may be other reasons they are in print.

*Minor* U N I T S T I T L E S M A R K E T S H A R E Language 2010 Units 2011 Units 2010 Titles 2011 Titles 10Mkt Share 11Mkt Share Clojure 1,332 1,532 2 4 0.08% 0.08% Puppet 659 1,518 1 3 0.04% 0.08% Stata 856 1,511 6 4 0.05% 0.08% Labview 1,682 1,443 3 2 0.10% 0.08% Scratch 1,112 1,263 2 2 0.07% 0.07% Groovy 2,523 1,205 7 9 0.15% 0.07% AWK 1,200 1,074 2 2 0.07% 0.06%

Here are the top titles for the Minor languages.

Stata Press A Gentle Introduction to Stata, Third Edition Apress Pro Puppet Manning The Joy of Clojure: Thinking the Clojure Way Course Technology Scratch Programming for Teens Oxford University Press Hands-On Introduction to LabVIEW for Scientists and Engineers

Linelist — 100 — 999 units in 2011

This grouping of languages saw 12 of the 28 languages sell more units in 2011, although the sales volume is fairly insignificant. But there was significant erosion in this group as it collectively saw a -46.96% decrease in units sold year-over-year. I am not going to list the bestsellers, because they are not exactly bestsellers, by any measure, in this grouping. Here is the list of languages selling more than 100 units and less than 1,000 in order by the most units to the fewest:

d, erlang, opencl c, applescript, mathematica, latex, tcl, jscript, minitab, apex, autolisp, pure data, fbml, hla, peoplecode, opengl shader, spin, fortran, pig, silverlight, mel, sparql, kml, linden script, lingo, coffeescript, sml, cobol.

TheRest Programming Languages — < 100 units in 2011

Lastly, the following languages sold fewer than 100 units in 2011. Here is the list in descending order:

abap, blitz3d, octave, nxt, gml, pascal, prolog, ml, chef, x++, inform, cfscript, cfml, racket, boo, jcl, siebel escript, idl, javafx, mvpl, m, verilog, jsl, nxc, limbo, mysql spl, rexx, rpg.

The following languages did not see any units sold in 2011. Here is the list in alphabetical order:

ada, awd, bondi, c/al, cachesql, cl, cs2, delphi, directx, dsl, e, egl, eiffel, go, haxe, maxscript, mumps, natural, ocaml, oopic, opl, pda languages, phrogram, pl/1, q, qbasic, realbasic, s, spark, squeak, windows script, xquery.

Next up, post 5 in this series will look at digital sales.

April 04 2012

State of the Computer Book Market, part 3: The Publishers

In this third installment, (see Post 1 and Post 2; Posts 4 and 5 to come soon), we will look at how publishers fared in 2011, as compared to 2010. The chart below shows our dashboard view of the large publishers' results for 2011. The most notable piece of information is that Wiley continues to hold the leading spot as the largest publisher (with 32% market share of units sold), while Pearson and O'Reilly both lost 1%, which is picked up by Cengage and McGraw Hill. (We'll look at revenue share later in the analysis.)


// oAnth - via RSS not usefully presented - please go to the linked article.

Next up, Post 4 will contain more analysis of programming languages. Post 5 will look at digital sales.

March 29 2012

State of the Computer Book Market, part 1: Overall Market

Since last year's State of the Computer Book Market posts, the Tech Book market has been going through some major changes, but none more profoundly affecting our industry as Borders Group Inc (BGI) going out of business. Much of what you will see in the 2012 trends are directly related to BGI's demise, though the faint signals that the book market provides to other industries are still evident.

You can get a quick refresher on how we see Computer Book Sales as a Technology Trend Indicator and our other posts on the State of the Computer Book Market.

The data in the posts that will follow, are from Bookscan's weekly top 3,000 titles sold. Bookscan measures actual cash register sales in bookstores. Simply put, whenever you buy a technology-oriented book in the United States, there's a high probability it will get recorded in this data. There are now two major Retailers in Tech books and they are: Barnes & Noble, and Amazon and they make up the lion's share of Bookscan's recorded sales.

Overall Book Market Performance

Before we get to the specifics of the computer book market, let's get some context by looking at the whole book market for the week ending December 25, 2011. Everything that is printed, bound, and sold as a book, from Steve Jobs and Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back to Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever and StrengthsFinder 2.0 is represented in the table below.

Overall Book Market - EVERYTHING - Week Ending: 2011-12-25

All Books, All Subjects Category Share YoY Adult Non-Fiction 40% -8% Computers 1% 2% Adult Fiction 19% -11% Juvenile Non-Fiction 6% 11% Juvenile Fiction 25% 10% Other 9% -30% Total 100% -9.25%

As you can see, the computer market is up about 2% from last year which is much better than the whole market being down more than -9%. It should be noted that the computer book market makes up only about 1% of total unit sales in bookstores and online retailers. Also, for this report and the following four posts, I am using a data that is aggregated from weekly reports of the Top 3000 titles in Bookscan. So the numbers for all the long-tail titles are not included here. In other words the data in the table above shows a 2% growth and yet our top 3000 data shows a 0.7% growth. This actually means that a considerable number of long-tail titles sold in 2011 yet did not make it past the minimum threshold to make a weekly top 3000 report. If you would like to see the performance of the major book categories, this table shows percentage growth. I find it interesting that the Religion/Bibles category is the largest-growing category in an otherwise depressed market. Only 10 out of the 47 overall categories showed growth in 2011 and the computer category was one of them. We'll look at precisely what fueled the growth for the computer category in future posts.

Now on to the technology book market. The four charts below provide some perspective into how each year stacks up against prior years from a Units and Title Count as well as Average Pages per book, and Average Price per book. The third and fourth charts provide context to how many new Titles were published during a given year and what the threshold was to make the Top 3000 report on a weekly basis. The chart on the top left shows the overall units sold per year with the Red Line showing the number of distinct titles that made the Bookscan Top 3000 weekly report. Looking at the two together provides a better insight into what happened. Basically as fewer units were sold, it looks as though more titles were published. Yet as you can see in the chart at the bottom of the four charts, there were fewer new titles in 2011 that contributed to the total units sold. So this leads me to believe that the numeric threshold to get into the dataset of the Top 3000 titles sold on a weekly basis was lower than previous years. And in fact the bottom right chart shows this was the case as 2011 had the lowest threshold in all years measured. So fewer books made the data with fewer of them being new and they had fewer pages and were priced lower on average than ever before. And yet the market showed a slight increase, so this must have come as a result of a few stellar performers that were likely titles published before 2011. We'll explore this in the coming posts, so hang on to this thought.

Units and Distinct Title Count Average Pages and Average Price MarketUnits_Count.jpg
MarketPages_Price.jpg Percent of New Titles Minimum threshold for DataSet


Immediately below is the weekly trend (from the Top 3000 titles reported weekly) for the entire computer book market since 2004, when we first obtained reliable data from Bookscan. Please remember that the data represents all publishers, and not just O'Reilly. The slightly thicker red line represents the 2011 data.

Click to enlarge

The clear seasonal pattern that we've pointed out before still exists, but with more extreme fluctuations. That is, we have a strong start that declines through the summer, spikes for the fall "Back to School" season, and finishes the year strong. And each subsequent year closely mirrors the year before but with usually a percent tick or two lower. But the biggest news for 2011 was that we had some weeks that were clearly above prior years and one week that was the highest we've seen for all the years. However, this boon comes through the unfortunate Borders fire sale, and then the eventual liquidation of their remaining inventory. In my opinion, it is too early to predict what long-term effect we will see with Borders gone, because as you'll notice as soon as their doors closed, the market hit bottom. Not only did it hit bottom, but the market tanked further down than we have ever seen it. But the reason I still think we are not in a pattern of predictability yet is that the December climb up was higher than the four previous years. So in a nutshell, 2011 was a year of our highest highs and our lowest lows and that was likely due to the Borders situation.

What you won't see on this chart is that the computer book market suffered its biggest losses in 2001 and then began shrinking 20 percent a year for 3 years, until it stabilized in 2004 at about half the size it was in 2000. (We have consistent and reliable data going back to 2004.) You can now see a second cratering in the market that started in the second half of 2008 and continued through 2010 until the more volatile and unpredictable 2011. The overall market growth rates for the previous seven years are: 2005 = 1.48%; 2006 = 3.17%; 2007 = -2.00%; 2008 = -4.27%; 2009 = -15.31%; 2010 = -4.29%; 2011 = +0.7%

So what about that market was news in 2011 other than Borders? In 2011, There were 21 weeks in the year that were ahead of the same week in 2010. In 2010 there were 11 weeks that were ahead of the prior year unit sales and in 2009, there were only two weeks that were ahead of the prior year. I am not willing to state that we are seeing a recovery in the market because a .7% growth is not exactly a strong signal in the right direction. To the optimists in the crowd, it appears as though we have seen bottom in October through November of 2011 — but pessimists will believe that they've seen this before: the market looks as though it hit bottom, but then takes another big hit downward. 2009 (the green line) was a turbulent rollercoaster ride to the bottom as well. So at this time the market is really too unstable to predict whether it will move down again or continue to recover.

Another way to look at the market is with the Treemap visualization tool. This tool helps us pick up on trends quickly, even when looking at thousands of books. It works like this:

The size of a square shows the market share and relative size of a category, while the color shows the rate of change in sales. Red is down, and green is up, with the intensity of the color representing the magnitude of the change. The following screenshot of our treemap shows gains and losses by category, comparing the fourth quarter of 2011 with the fourth quarter of 2010.

Click to enlarge

So what are all the boxes and colors telling us? First remember that this is compares the last quarters of the previous two years.

There were quite a few bright spots (bright green) during the last quarter of 2011. Take a look at Android Programming (in the upper-left box), the bright-green box showing growth from the fourth quarter of 2010. Right next to Android is iOS which is larger in size, but Black which means flat growth. You will also see Android again in bright-green (upper-middle box) — the difference is that the upper-left is for programmer-oriented books and the upper-middle is for Android consumer books [using your Droid]. Both had impressive growth in 2011 compared to 2010. In the upper-middle area is iPad and iPhone for consumers which where flat or down. I wonder if the iPhone 4GS was as big of a hit as the iPhone 4. The iPad, the upper-middle big black square, continues to impress with how big the box is at this early point in its evolution, and is flat because both years have netted lots of units sold. Look at Windows 7 just below iPad and notice that the iPad size is about 3/5 as big as Windows 7. That is amazing to me, as the iPad has grown to be almost as big as the business desktop operating system.

In 2010, Windows 7 was the number one growth area for units, followed by iPad, then Android (for consumers), and Android programming. This is unit growth, and a bit of the success for these technologies is that they are fairly new and do not have large market shares as a base to be measured against Looking at longer-established technologies, Security and Network Security and Digital Photography had strong unit growth.

I find it useful to organize the trends into classifications that are High Growth Categories bright green, Moderate Growth Categories dark green to black, Categories to Watch all colors, and Down Categories red to bright red. Most of these descriptions are self-explanatory, except perhaps Categories to Watch. This group contains titles that we've found are not typically susceptible to seasonal swings, as well as areas on our editorial radar. If there are categories you want to get on our watch list, please let me know.

The table below highlights and explains some of the data from the chart above, although the data is for all of 2011. The Share column shows the total market share of that category, and the ROC column shows the Rate of Change (RoC = (current_period - prev_period) / prev_period). So, for example, you can see that Mac OS books represent 2.79% of the entire computer book market, and were shrinking by -7.49% (RoC).

High Growth Share ROC Notes iPad 04.46% 65.57% From no presence in 2009, to a 1.74% market share in 2011, to the the largest market share for all topics in 2011. Ironically, physical books about the iPad, sell. Nook 00.86% 100.00% This category had no 2010 presence, but is now the 29th largest category in market share. Again, the irony of this — content about a book reader sells well in physical form. iPhone 01.97% 21.65% This category has seen steady increases each year except in 2010. 2011 almost matched its high point in units which was in 2009. Of all categories it is ranked 6th in 2011. JavaScript 00.98% 18.79% 2011 saw nearly 12,000 more units sold than 2010. 2006 was the high mark for JavaScript with 323 more units sold than 2011 but last year had the biggest growth year-over-year. Computers and Society 01.11% 32.53% This area reached its highest ever point for unit sales and moved to the 16th ranked area in 2011. It ranks 45th on the all time list.   Moderate Growth Share ROC Notes Java 01.32% 08.27% A nice steady pattern for Java now. Growth in each of the previous three years. It is the 12th largest category overall and reached that same rank in 2011. Web Design 01.03% 05.17% This category pattern is like a roller-coaster, up and down. Overall it ranks 13th, but in 2011 it was 22nd even though it showed modest growth compared with 2010. C++ 00.93% 06.87% A language that was built to last, and used to build things that last. The overall sales pattern is inconsistent. Its overall rank is 19th and in 2011 it was 25th. CSS 00.78% 06.34% The pattern here has been downward since 2007 but in 2011 there was modest growth. Overall it is ranked 24th and in 2011 it was 31st. Game Development 00.73% 08.96% Growth in the previous two years is fueled in part by new books on mobile game development. About 15% of the new Game Dev books were covered mobile.   Categories to Watch Share ROC Notes Office Suites 2.71% 6.88% Our fourth largest category for all years measured and usually consistent. The fact that this category is up may be attributable to new Laptops and Desktops being purchased. Digital Photography 05.71% -3.17% A very large category with five 2011 titles producing more than 10,000 units sold. 2011 had 6 additional titles making the list, yet the category sold -11,533 fewer units than 2010. Spreadsheets 04.53% 0.41% The third largest category, with 3 titles selling more than 10,000 units; 13 fewer titles made the list in 2011 yet produced 1,172 more units than 2010. Software Project Management 01.97% -04.74% A good-size and consistent category, though it is down in units sold. 31 additional titles in this category produced 5,941 fewer units in 2011. PMP and Agile still drive the category from a units perspective.   Down Categories Share ROC Notes Windows Consumer 04.36% -49.63% All time the second largest category, yet the saw 21 fewer titles make the list in 2011 and -137,958 fewer units sold. Perhaps a signal that Tablets are becoming more important than the desktop? Web Programming 01.68% -17.77% Historically, the 4th largest category yet in 2011 37 fewer titles made the list and -19,083 fewer units were sold. This loss is attributed mostly the PHP & MySQL books that used to dominate the web programming space. MacOS 02.79% -07.49% This category is ranked #5 for all time, yet the past two years have seen significant decreases. 18 more titles made the list in 2011, but they produced -13,309 fewer units. Could it be that Snow Leopard and Lion were not significant enough releases? Or are tablets eroding this category too? Flash 00.77% -45.30% Overall ranked 14th, this category has dropped in market share from 2.01% to .77%; it ranked 34th in 2010 and now 45th in 2011. HTML5 seems to be the clear influence in this space. Web Design Tools 01.12% -21.35% All time ranking of 8th, yet this is the second year in a row this category takes it on the chin with -15,196 fewer units sold and 8 fewer titles making the list in 2011. The decline in this category is mostly attributed to Dreamweaver.

Post 2 in this series will provide a closer look at the technologies within the categories. Post 3 will be about the publishers, both winners and losers. Post 4 will contain more analysis of programming languages, and Post 5 will look at digital sales.

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