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May 1

Mike Hendrickson

Mike Hendrickson

State of the Computer Book Market, Part 2 - The Technologies

In this second installment (the first post is found here), I'll look at specific technologies and will drill in on the areas a bit more. Remember that we've organized the data into six "Category Families" -- Systems and Programming, Web Design and Development, Business Applications, Digital Media Applications, Consumer Operating Systems and Devices, and Other. Within each Family are category group, super-category, category, and atomic category. For example, Systems and Programming includes programming languages, databases, software engineering, general programming, security, and so on.

As a refresher, here is a new view of the Category Families with their sub areas for Q1 2007 compared to Q1 2006. In this view, we've changed the view to highlight the category hierarchy rather than the relative size of the actual categories.

Treemap Category-1

Recapping the big picture from last week, you can see that the moderate-to-high growth of Consumer Operating Systems has not been visibly aided by the addition of 47 new Q1 '07 Vista titles, because there were no Vista titles in '06 -- hence the black box for Vista. However, the whole Category Family (Consumer Operating Systems) benefits from 47 new titles with more than 86,000 Vista units sold in the first three months of this year. The Business Applications area has also been aided by the Office 2007 release and new titles coming into the category. The Web Design and Development area is showing steady sales for the most part, but is down collectively. Although Digital Media is our second largest category, its relative market growth during the quarter was slower than anticipated. But that is no surprise because Adobe has CS3 about to release and consumers are holding out for the new software. I expect this category to be one of the top performing areas in 2007. (That being said, early reports from some software stores suggest that, like Vista and Office 2007, CS3 may be a bit slower out of the gate than expected.)

Below are some individual charts from our dashboard showing a 24-month period from April 2005 to April 2007. By looking at a 24-month pattern, you'll get more insight into whether or not a particular area seems to be hit by seasonal factors, or if there is a steady decline/increase for the category.

Cat Graphs-1

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The Categories (24-month rolling, April 2005 - April 2007)

Category_Family: Consumer Operating Systems

This category is a real mixed bag. Traditional consumer operating systems books, perennially a computer mass-market mainstay (9% of the overall computer book market), are up 30% (20% for Windows Desktop) in relative market share. Since we know that there were 47 new Vista titles yet the overall Windows category had only 13 new titles, it means that 34 other Windows titles fell out of the list in Q1 2007.

So here is the mixed-bag part. This year, the category has done fairly well overall because there were no Vista titles last year. However, when you compare Vista in Q1 '07 with the XP titles in Q1 '06, XP out performed Vista by more than 41k units and $460k. Vista books are starting to get more traction after a mediocre start -- presumably due to the operating system releasing on more new hardware during Q1 '07. Not unexpectedly, Microsoft Press has three out of the five best-selling titles when you look at the average weekly units sold. O'Reilly has the sixth best-selling title, with Vista:The Missing Manual being our highest representative in the top ten Vista list. We expect this category to grow more quickly as more and more computers ship with Vista.

Con Ops-3

Here are the trend lines for the three main categories that make up Consumer Operating Systems.

Cat Group Con Ops 24-2

In smaller markets, one book has the potential to affect the trend more noticeably. This is precisely what happens in the "Mac" category_group when we release a new edition of David Pogue's Mac OS X: The Missing Manual. Pogue's book has made this category a one-book race. It has 20% market share while the next closest book has a 4% share.

Before leaving this category for the Business/Offic Apps category, let's look at why we think Vista is going to heat up. The chart below show "Windows" category-group titles only and how they have performed so far this year as compared to last year's first quarter. "Other" includes things like NT, ME, and other lesser used OSes from Microsoft. In the current quarter we are in, Vista is continuing its steady rise.

Xp Vista Other Q107

Category_Family: Business/Office Applications

You'll notice that the Business/Office Applications category pretty much follows the pattern of the Consumer OS category, yet the category as a whole is slightly down. Do pay attention to the scale on the charts, though, because the Business Apps category, has top months that have combined units well above the Consumer OS group. In Bus/Apps there were 72 more titles [35 in Office alone] in Q1 '07 than in Q1 '06 that made the top 10k and yet they produced 31,000 fewer units. Definitely not the kind of trend that moves a category along. The Office 2007 book sales are only about 25% of the total Office share, which means lots of folks are still buying and using old Office books. It is notable that Excel books are down overall despite having 21 more titles making the top 10k list in Q1 '07. Excel is typically a steady and healthy area and with the addition of the Excel 2007 titles, we expected better results. So what is making this category perform is titles on "office" and not the specific components. Again, no surprise that Microsoft Press has three out of the top five bestselling Business/Office Applications titles.

Biz Apps 24-3

Here are the trend lines for the three main categories that make up Business/Office Applications.

Cat Family Biz Aps 24-2

Notice how much bigger of a category "Office" is than the other two ["Gen Bus App" & "Design"]. The "Design" chart shows a much more consistent trend line and is not centered around two large peaks. This is likely related to the breadth of the smaller category which includes the likes of InDesign, Illustrator, Acrobat, QuarkXpress and Visio.

Category_Family: Web Design and Development

It is a bit of a surprise that Web Design and Development is a down category. It is typically a very healthy category, but a couple of factors have conspired to make it appear even more down that it actually is. First the largest part of the category is Web Site Design and Development and that is only down in the single digits which is better than the overall market. Second, O'Reilly published Head First HTML with CSS and Dreamweaver: The Missing Manual in the fourth quarter of 2005, and a healthy number of these bestsllers were sold shortly thereafter in Q1 2006. There were at least five big titles published in the late fall of 2005, as well as Dreamweaver MX 2004: A Beginner's Guide, which published in early January 2006. Compare this to only one big title publishing in late fall of 2006 and you can see why this market looks down. I think this will all change when we see a wave of Web 2.0 books hit the market and should not be driven by seasonal or release factors.

Web Des 24-1

Here are the trend lines for the three main categories that make up Web Design and Development.

Cat Fam Web Des 24-2

Obviously the big sub-category here is Web Site which is driven this year by hot titles like our ActionScript Cookbook, JavaScript: The Definitive Guide and Ajax on Rails. The top non-Web Site titles in the "Other" category, and are Blogging for Dummies followed by Podcasting for Dummies and WordPress 2. The "Application Server" category is led by Microsoft IIS 6.0 Administrator's Pocket Consultant. Both of these categories are small and fairly irrelevant compared with Web Site.

Category_Family: Systems and Programming

This is the largest of our top-level categories. It is the place where most of the programming language, database, and software development titles reside. The normal trend here is that the category gets off to a good start early in the year and then has another peak around September (college students back in school). There are six category groups that are relevant to look at in this category.

Sys Prog 24-1

Here are the trend lines for first set of three out of the six main categories that make up Systems and Programming.

Cat Fam Sys Prog 24 1-3

Again, note the scale of the overall category. Programming languages have consistently been the largest category group, but databases are catching up quickly and in fact have recently climbed above programming languages. The "SW Engr" category group contains all the software development type books that are not about languages specifically but may have some code in them. This is a fairly healthy and stable group with the leading book in the category being our Head First Design Patterns title.

The second set of three trend line charts are healthy when compared to the rest of the category groups from other Category Families.

Cat Fam Sys Prog 24 1-2

In "Prog" we have consistent titles like Code Complete from Microsoft Press, our Information Dashboard Design, and an eight-year-old title The Pragmatic Programmer from the Pragmatic Programmers -- another evergreen classic. In "Opsys usage" we have a healthy supply of Linux titles led by our Linux Pocket Guide. There are four Ubuntu titles, including our Ubuntu Hacks, in the top ten of this category. I think we should keep our eyes on this distribution and see if we get more newbies interested in Ubuntu as the starting point for a Linux machine. In the Network area we have Cisco Press being the dominant player by far. Dummies is the second player. It is interesting to see that you are either a professional looking for certification with the Cisco Press titles, or a newbie trying to figure our how to set up a wireless network. This is an odd category.

Next Up, The Publishers

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