Mike Hendrikson reviews the state of the computer book market twice a year on the O'Reilly Radar blog (using Bookscan data). The most recent set of posts finished a couple of weeks ago. It's always a very helpful analysis, one that I use to inform my book (and ebook) buying habits. All four parts (1, 2, 3, 4) are well worth reading in their entirety but I'll just exerpt a telling remark or two from each.
Part 1: The Market
So what's was news in 2007? The year got off to slow start and by mid-year it looked like results were going end below the prior years. But around the middle of July, which is typically a slow time in computer books, the market climbed above the most recent years. Not only did the market climb above of the prior years, but it did not dip below any of the prior years until the third week in December [Christmas week]. That being said, the market ended up at 1%, or 4,089 units above 2006 - on a base of over 7.4 million units. That is truly a small increase but mostly realized in the second half of the year...
In the fourth quarter of 2006, new interest in web development associated with Web 2.0 and strong performance of books on digital media applications like Photoshop helped to drive the market.
Some categories to watch include Collaboration & Office Suites while declining categories include web programming and digital photography.
Part 2: The Technologies
In response to previous State of the Computer Book market posts, there have been reader comments indicating that part of the decline in the market is due to a lack of anything that new in the Tech world to sustain lots of books selling lots of copies. It begs the question -- will we ever see another Java-like phenomena similar to what we experienced 12 years ago? (And yes, we understand it was much more than just a Java event, but Java skyrocketed more than all others - it was truly astronomical...) However, we believe that one reason why programming and administration topics are suffering more than consumer topics is that sophisticated users are the first to show the preference shift from books to online content consumption. (emphasis mine. -- jd)
Part 3 -- The Publishers
o what is notable from this data? First that these large publishers are down about 165k units from 2006 to 2007. So that means that in 2007 we experienced our modest market growth from the middle-to-small publishers even though the large houses published nearly 100 more titles and had slightly better efficiency. Wiley gained market share while getting more titles into the top 3000 and with slightly better efficiency. Pearson lost market share and had 159 fewer titles make the top 3000 and experienced a very slight drop in efficiency. O'Reilly had about 100k fewer units on 11 more titles making the top 3000; our efficiency took a hit as a result but remained well above the efficiency average. (We actually published about 60 fewer titles than in 2006, so the fact that we had 11 more in the top 3000 was a surprise to us.)
The top three publishers are Pearson, Wiley and they O'Reilly. It's also very interesting to see everything broken down by category and to see the top books in each category. For example the top books in Web Design and Development are:
- Peachpit's HTML, XHTML, and CSS: Visual Quickstart
- New Rider's Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
- O'Reilly's Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML
- Wiley's Building Web Sites All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies
- Pragmatic's Agile Web Development with Rails
Part 4 - The Languages
Overall the 2007 market for programming languages was down (1.67%) in 2007 when compared with 2006. There were 1,809,695 units sold in 2006 versus 1,779,523 units sold in 2007 which is (30,172) fewer units in 2007. So the modest 1% growth in the Overall Computer Book Market must have been fueled by non-programming oriented books. You don't need a programming language to learn to use MacOsX, Vista or Office and that is where the growth was in 2007...
Before we dive in, let's look at the high level picture for the grouping of languages. As you can see in the table below, the MidMinor and Minor languages experienced growth in 2007 while the rest experienced a decline. The languages driving the growth in the Minor category are Groovy, SAS, Erlang, Matlab, and Processing. 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:
- O'Reilly: Head First Design Patterns
- Peachpit: CSS, DHTML, and Ajax
- Sams: Sams Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL and Apache All in One
In the minor category, it's interesting to note that Basic still has 1% market share. Who knew? Matlab, latex and SAS are all less than 1% market share. Cobol, fortran, ada and alice are all categorized as immmaterial. Inactive languages, those with barely detectable sales: labview, lingo, ml, mumps, net languages, oopic, opl, pascal, pda languages, pl/1, qbasic, rexx, s, smalltalk, spark, squeak, unrealscript, windows script.