In a reversal of trends in recent years, ebook growth is basically flat in the U.S. while hardcover books are selling much better this year than last.
According to the latest numbers from the Association of American publishers, adult ebook sales are up 4.8% through August to $647.7 million. Meanwhile, sales of hardcover books are up 11.5% to $778.6 million over the same period.
The trend over the past several years has been quite the opposite, with ebooks growing in double and triple digits and hardcover sales falling, giving way to the cheaper format. Paperback sales, however, continued to decrease, down 11.6% from a year ago to $898.9 million.
Sales of children’s ebooks continue to sag on unfavorable comparisons to a 2012 that saw the Hunger Games dominate best-seller lists alongside Fifty Shades of Grey. Sales of children’s ebooks are down 40.1% to $109.6 million through August. However, children’s ebook sales are up significantly versus two years ago.
Religious ebooks are up slightly to $42.7 million in sales versus a year ago, an increase of 2.6%.
Across all three categories that the AAP tracks on a monthly basis, ebooks accounted for $800 million in revenue, down about 5% from the same time last year. Including audio books, board books and several other categories in adult, children’s and religious publishing, ebooks accounted for 22.1% of U.S. publisher revenue through August.
Despite a nationwide slowdown in ebook sales growth, some of the largest U.S. publishers are still seeing their gains from the format increase markedly and drive overall growth. Hachette’s U.S. business saw huge revenue increases in its third quarter, driven by ebooks, which accounted for 27% of revenue in the quarter. HarperCollins reported revenue declines but profit increases in its first quarter this year, driven by 30% growth in ebook sales.