Ebook Sales Declined in 2015; Digital Audio Continued Growth

AAP, books, ebooks, sales, publishersThe AAP released its latest sales numbers today, for January through December 2015. Overall sales were up 0.8 percent to $7.2 billion compared to $7.1 billion in 2014.

Overall publisher revenue for 2015, however, was $15.4 billion, down 2.6 percent from the previous year.

A couple key takeaways:

Ebook sales declined in 2015; digital audio continued to grow in popularity; trade publishers did better than educational and scholarly publishers; adult books performed better than other trade categories.

Full press release below:

AAP StatShot: Trade Sales Up Slightly at Year End 2015

Format preferences, category performance, vary greatly from 2014

Washington, DC; April 26, 2016 – Publishers’ book sales for trade (consumer) books from Jan. to Dec. were up 0.8% to $7.2 billion compared to $7.1 billion in 2014. Despite a slow holiday season, the year ended slightly up, with a shift in sales for format and category.

Overall publisher revenue for 2015 was $15.4 billion, down 2.6% from the previous year. 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). Publisher net revenue is tracked monthly by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and includes sales data from more than 1,200 publishers (#AAPStats).

A more detailed analysis of 2015 will be available with the StatShot Annual Report, which includes information from more than 1,800 publishers and market modeling, and will be available for purchase.

Some of the 2015 trends include:
· eBook sales declined this year – mostly from the Childrens & Young Adult category (C/YA down 43.3% from 2014).
· Downloaded audio continues to grow in popularity – this growth is most evident in the Adult Books category (Adult up 38.9% from 2014).
· Trade publishers fared better than educational or scholarly publishers.
· Adult Books performed better than other trade categories.

“For trade publishers, 2014 was a blockbuster year – especially in the Childrens and Young Adult Books category; so despite the challenging comps, increased sales in Adult Books helped the industry post gains in 2015,” said Tina Jordan, Vice President of the Association of American Publishers. “We’ll explore the reasons for the gains in the upcoming StatShot Annual.”
Publisher sales of trade books for the month of Dec. 2015 were up 0.3% compared to Dec. 2014, and up 0.8% for the full calendar year.

· Childrens & Young Adult Books were up 7.3% compared to Dec. 2014, the category still ended the year down 3.2%.
· Adult Books were down 2.6% in Dec., but ended the year with an overall growth of 2.2%.
· Religious Presses continued several months of sales growth, up 5.6% in Dec. and 1.2% for 2015.

Total Trade Net Revenue by Category (in millions)*

Trade Formats:
Downloaded audio and paperback books have grown every month in 2015 vs. the same month in 2014.

· Within Adult Books, downloaded audio is up 38.9% and paperback is up 16.2% for the year; eBooks declined 9.5% and hardback is down 0.5% for the year.
· Within Childrens & Young Adult Books, paperback is up 9.5% and board books were up 12.6%; eBooks declined 43.3% and hardback is down 7.7% for the year.

Chart below depicts Trade Book sales by format from 2011 – 2015.

Educational Materials:
Revenues for PreK-12 instructional materials were up for the month of Dec. 2015 vs. Dec. 2014, but down 4.1% to $3.2 billion for the year.
Higher Education course materials were down 6.5% for the month of Dec. 2015 vs. Dec. 2014, and down 7.2% to $4.1 billion for the year.

Professional and Scholarly Publishing:
Sales for Professional Publishing, which includes business, medical, law, scientific and technical books and journals, were up 4.2% for Dec 2015 vs. Dec. 2014 and down slightly by 0.8% for 2015.
University Presses were down 3.1% year-over-year compared to the same 12 months in 2014.

* NOTE: Figures represent publishers’ net revenue for the U.S. (i.e. what publishers sell to bookstores, direct to consumer, online venues, etc.), and are not retailer/consumer sales figures.

Media Contact
Marisa Bluestone / mbluestone@publishers.org / {202} 220-4558

About AAP
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) represents about four hundred member organizations including major commercial, digital learning and education and professional publishers alongside independents, non-profits, university presses and scholarly societies. We represent the industry’s priorities on policy, legislative and regulatory issues regionally, nationally and worldwide. These include the protection of intellectual property rights and worldwide copyright enforcement, digital and new technology issues, funding for education and libraries, tax and trade, censorship and literacy. Find us online at www.publishers.org or on twitter at @AmericanPublish.

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2 thoughts on “Ebook Sales Declined in 2015; Digital Audio Continued Growth

  1. Michael W. Perry

    Quote: “Ebook sales declined in 2015; digital audio continued to grow in popularity.”

    Thanks for confirming one of my business maxims: If you want to know what the national market is doing, look at what you and your friends of doing. They’re a microcosm of the larger world.

    I’m moving away from ebooks with the exception of read-once-and-discard ones, and I read few of those. I’m returning to print for everything serious because it’s more substantial. If I want to find that ebook I bought last year, I have to look for it in multiple apps and online sources. For a print one, I simply look over my shelves.

    I’ve been listening to audiobooks for about ten years, starting with cassettes. I went through various technologies over the years, all of them clumsy. But with feature-rich audiobooks apps on smartphones, the technology finally came of age. Audiobooks are now easy to find, download and play. I suspect the surge in that market reflects that ease of use, along with the fact that audiobooks let you listen in situations where you can’t read.

    Ebooks may resume their growth, but those managing them need to deal with all the issues that trouble users including DRM and differing formats. Buying an ebook simply doesn’t provide the same feeling of security as buying a printed one.

  2. Joseph T. Sinclair

    I believe indie publishers that aren’t even on the AAP radar have taken over informational publishing.

    I used to spend $70/month at B&N. Two of the B&Ns near my house are closed, and I’ve been to the third only twice in the last two years. I have 270 books in my Kindle account. I buy a book in print only when it’s not available in ebook form and I need it badly. But I find myself almost boycotting ebooks by major publishers because they cost too much. I’ve had great luck lately buying small inexpensive ebooks that directly provide the info I need. I don’t have to buy a big book to get the three chapters I need. A huge portion of the ebooks I buy are self published. Many are not available at Amazon.

    Many self publishers are indie publishers. That is, they publish new books regularly; they have a publishing name; they write useful books; they publish mostly in digital formats; and they make a living. It’s a huge industry that no one measures, and it has pushed the printed and ebook sales of traditional publishers off a cliff. If indie publishing could be accurately measured, one can speculate that it probably has double digit percentage increases each year.

    The AAP stats are a smoke screen obscuring the biggest revolution in publishing since 1445.



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