AAP: Ebooks Decline, Audio Grows and Publishers’ Sales Drop

AAP, books, ebooks, sales, publishersThe Association of American Publishers (AAP) released its new newest numbers this morning, which compare January 2016 to January 2015.

Ebook sales took a big hit, according to the AAP’s numbers, dropping 24.9 percent to $99.9 million. Hardcover books didn’t do much better, falling 18.7 percent to $151.3 million.

Paperback books, on the other hand, grew 4.3 percent to $169.3 million, and, unsurprisingly, digital audio grew 30.1 percent to $20.4 million.

Publishers’ book sales for January 2016 were $991.7 million, down 6.7 percent from $1.06 billion in January 2015. These numbers include sales for all tracked categories (trade: fiction/non-fiction/religious, prek-12 instructional materials, higher education course materials, professional publishing and university presses).

Trade (consumer) books sales were $488.0 million in January 2016, down 13.7 percent from $565.4 million in January 2015. This includes childrens/YA books, adult books and religious books.

Educational materials grew 7.9 percent for k-12 instructional materials, and 2.2 percent for higher education materials.

Professional publishing, however, was down 19.8 percent. This segment includes business, medical, law, scientific and technical books and journals.

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2 thoughts on “AAP: Ebooks Decline, Audio Grows and Publishers’ Sales Drop

  1. Adrianne Cook

    Just to clarify, “Ebook sales took a big hit, according to the AAP’s numbers, dropping 24.9 percent to $99.9 million” refers to AAP members only, correct? They’re not counting any sales by non-AAP members?

    I do agree that ebook sales among traditional publishers are declining, but I disagree that ebook sales *as a whole* are declining; rather, my perception is that independent/small publishers are doing much better than traditional publishers.

    1. Michael W. Perry

      You’ve touched on one dynamic about digital publishing that perhaps isn’t emphasized enough. That is how it can flip the market upside down, giving small and agile advantages over large and ponderous.

      The larger publishers benefit from print because they have the marketing muscle to push books into bookstores and to advertise or get reviewed in ways that cause people to buy a book even sight unseen. Digital eliminates the need to ‘push books into bookstores’ while weakening the advantages of advertising and reviews. An independent author may not be be able to get his book reviewed in the New York Review of Books, but he can offer the first in a series of ebooks either free or cheap and publicize it through various websites. Here’s an illustration I came across today:


      If I read the offer right, that’s 14 scifi books from established, independent authors for $16. That’s a little over $1 each, and some of the money goes to an educational charity. I’m not sure how popular that storybundle website is, but I suspect the cost per new reader discovered is likely a lot cheaper than commercial advertising. Note too that these books aren’t DRMed. If you buy them, you really own them.

      That’s the competition that the traditional midde-to-large publishers are facing whether they know it or not. And we probably should keep in mind that with but a few exceptions, the reading pie has a fixed size. People who turn to these independent authors have less time to read books from established publishers. That’s what Adrianne is suggesting. AAP’s loss may be someone else’s gain.



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