E-Books Drive Revenue Growth Across Book Trade in January 2012

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By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

January 2012 was a banner month for the book trade with e-book revenue growth leading the way.

Total trade revenues were up to $503.5 million in January 2012 from $396 million in January 2011, a 27.1% increase, according to the latest figures from the Association of American Publishers. E-books led the way with $128.8 million in revenue in January 2012 versus $73.2 million in January 2011, a 76% increase.

Children’s e-book revenue grew the most in terms of percent growth, up 475.1% to $22.6 million from $3.9 million, but adult trade e-books were up the most in real dollars to $99.5 million versus $66.6 million. The adult trade e-book business is now on track to reach nearly $1.2 billion in 2012.

Growth in the religious e-book market was strong at 150.7% in January, but on a relatively small base: up to $6.7 million from $2.7 million.

In past years, a strong January for e-books was hard to match in subsequent months because of the so-called “Christmas effect,” wherein new e-readers and tablets received as gifts during the holidays were filled with books by their users in the early part of the year disproportionately compared to the later months of the year. This year, that may not be the case.

“My hunch is the Christmas lift effect is likely to be less this year than in prior years because so many devices were second or third devices, not first devices,” said publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin. “So it should be less of a challenge for subsequent months to meet the January numbers than it has been in previous years.”

The AAP attributes the overall growth of the book trade to “general economic improvement” and “a number of successful new titles released by publishers.” The AAP also noted in a statement that some of the strong growth might be due to a weak January 2011 because of increased returns from the now-shuttered Borders chain.

According to Publishers Lunch, e-books represented 27% of all book sales in January 2012 and 31% of all adult trade sales.

With this January’s report, the AAP has expanded the number of publishers queried to nearly 1,200 versus about 90 in past months. The report now also includes additional categories, like children/young adult. The January 2011 numbers have been backwards-engineered to include the expanded data set.

“We realized how critical it was to get frequent data and got all the major distribution houses involved in the report,” said Tina Jordan, vice president of the AAP.

Perseus Book Group and IPG are among distributors participating. Ingram is not yet participating.

As the pace of change in the book publishing world accelerates, the AAP is seeking to provide its members with a higher level of service. The new report also falls more closely in line with the annual BookStats report, a more comprehensive view of the market from the AAP in partnership with the Book Industry Study Group.

“This report represents a more complete view of the marketplace,” said Jordan. “You have a greater representation of publishers of all sizes.”

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

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2 thoughts on “E-Books Drive Revenue Growth Across Book Trade in January 2012

  1. I think e-books are popular because they are so easy to get just a simple click and it’s downloaded. You don’t have to drive to a store or mess with a crowded mall. Plus the e-readers have dropped in price so much in just the last few months, spawned I think by the cheap price of the new Kindle 4 introduced late in 2011.

  2. Its a great thing for readers, I’ve been loving my Sony ereaderfor years now. I also use the kindle app for iPhone. It’s so simple to get a book, and when I see low prices for awesome reads, I can’t resist just clicking to buy!

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