What’s Hot and What’s Not – O’Reilly’s State of the Computer Book Market 2008

The stats are in for 2008. I always look forward to the O’Reilly report on the State of the Computer Book Market – kind of gives you a look at which technologies are gaining interest and which are losing it.

No longer written by Tim O’Reilly, this year’s (and last year’s) report was written by Mike Henderson, O’Reilly’s publisher for the Open Tech eXchange division.

This year the report has 5 parts:

 

Part 1: The Market

Part 1: The Market covers the Computer Book Market in general. The data comes from Bookscan’s weekly top 3,000 titles sold. According to Bookscan, computer books accounted for just 1% of all books sold (in the US) in 2008, having lost 8% since 2007.

The following table, from the O’Reilly report, shows What’s Hot, and What’s Not:

High Growth Share ROC Notes
Mac Programming 0.46% 85.23% Small catgory led by several titles centered on Cocoa and Objective C for developing iPhone Apps.
Virtualization 0.25% 62.66% Small category that saw 10 new 2008 titles on Vmware and VMware Infrastructure.
Mobile Phone 1.28% 57.47% Good-size category led by six new 2008 titles on the iPhone.
Computers and Society 0.84% 54.16% Small and volitile category with 44% new titles; 15% less than last year. Titles don’t live long in the area.
Social Web 1.02% 49.70% Decent-size catgory led by Blogging and Wiki books; WordPress leads with six titles.
Moderate Growth Share ROC Notes
Web Site Topics 1.03% 36.35% Good-size category where 36 new titles appeared and 25 dropped out. Led by Web Analytics, Joomla, and Drupal.
Mac OS 4.07% 28.70% Fairly large category with a monster book in Pogue’s Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual which sold three times as many units as the #2 book.
C# 1.58% 26.76% Solid category with 43 new titles and only 19 fell out of the space. O’Reilly has 4 out of 10 bestsellers. Surprisingly, MS Press had only 1 title in the top ten.
Collaboration 1.33% 4.75% Solid category dominated by Sharepoint titles. 25 new titles, and 13 fell out of the rankings.
Categories to Watch Share ROC Notes
Office Suites 2.87% 13.26% Decent-size category dominated by 74 new Office 2007 [PC] and 2008 [Mac] titles while 23 Office 2000, and 2003 titles finally fell out of category.
Digital Photography 6.91% 1.01% Large category with 5 titles selling more than 20k units; 76 new tiles moved into the category and 109 [mostly CS2] titles fell out of the rankings.
Spreadsheets 4.48% -8.49% Large category with 9 titles selling more than 10k units; 26 new Excel 2007 titles and 3 fell out.
Rich Web Interface 4.61% -10.81% Large category dominated by ActionScript (3), Flash (3) and Javascript (3) in the top ten. But only 3 titles topped 10k units.
Down Categories – Not Hot Topics Share ROC Notes
Web Page Creation 4.77% -15.57% Large category with 42 new titles published but 30 that fell out of the rankings. 4 of the top 5 titles sold fewer units in 2008 than in 2007.
Windows Consumer 6.68% -22.65% Large category with 9 out of the top 10 titles selling fewer units in 2008 than in 2007; 30 new titles and 57 titles fell out of the rankings.
Linux 1.38% -22.78% Decent-size category with the middle of the pack failing. Titles selling 2k-3k units dropped to the 600-700 range. 27 new titles, 26 that fell out.
Microsoft Programming 1.33% -25.05% Decent size category with the middle of the pack failing. Titles selling 2k-3k units dropped to the 600-700 range. 30 new titles, 32 that fell out.
iPod + iTunes 1.25% -37.95% Decent size category with the 2 of the top 5 titles accounting for 30k fewer units between them than they sold in 2007. 8 new titles and 8 that fell out of the rankings.

Part Two : The Technologies

Part Two : The Technologies takes a closer look at the various technologies, how they did in 2008, and compares that to how they did in 2007. Books are divided into 6 categories:

  1. Systems and Programming
  2. Web Design and Development
  3. Business Applications
  4. Digital Media Applications
  5. Consumer Operating Systems and Devices
  6. Other

Each category is further divided into sub-categories. Mac OS X was the big seller for Operating Systems books.

Part Three – The Publishers

Part Three – The Publishers looks at how the larger publishers did in 2008, and compares that to 2007. For overall sales, Wiley was on top with 30% of the market share. In the 2nd spot, Pearson lost 2%. O’Reilly, in 3rd place, gained 1%.

The top publishers vary, when looked at by book categories. And as they say, these numbers are based on sales, and don’t necessarily indicate quality or lack of it!

Part Four – The Languages

Part Four – The Languages contains a deeper analysis of the programming languages. Sales were good for Objective-C and ActionScript. Python, PHP and C# all did very well, with C# overtaking Java as the #1 programming language.

Part Five – eBooks and Summary

Part Five – eBooks and Summary summarizes the first four parts, mentions the top selling computer book authors of the year (Scott Kelby, David Pogue, and Andy Rathbone), and discusses eBooks vs. Print Books.

While Computer Book sales are down overall, and have been nose-diving for several years now, the eBook market seems to be growing very nicely, thank you. These questions were asked, and I will ask them of you:

Do you believe we are at or near a tipping point for the computer book industry? Do developers want content online or a combination of online and print?

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