2015 U.S. Book Publishing Revenue Flat; Print Sales Rise as Ebook Sales Decline
Yesterday the Association of American Publishers (AAP) released its annual Statshot report for 2015, tracking the net revenue of the U.S. book market. While overall publishing revenue remained flat, decreasing 0.6% from 2014 to $27.78 billion, the AAP painted a positive picture of the year-end results. Sales of print formats, particularly in trade publishing, increased, while ebook sales declined.
“StatShot Annual 2015 has confirmed print’s marked return. The paper book, just like the ebook, is here to stay,” said Tina Jordan, vice president of the Association of American Publishers in a press release. She credited print’s rise to growth in the adult book segment, which was spurred by the popularity of titles like The Girl on the Train and Go Set a Watchman, as well as adult coloring books.
There are many in the industry who have voiced doubts about whether the resurgence of print (at the expense of ebooks) is necessarily a positive development. Some have argued that since agency pricing returned in 2014, and with it higher ebook prices, traditional publishers have ceded ebook market share to independent publishers and self-publishers. Those pundits believe this ceding of the ebook market will only hurt traditional publishers in the long run. And they predict even greater sales declines to come.
Whether print’s apparent resurgence is a boon to publishers remains to be seen
Read the full AAP announcement below.
Washington, DC; July 11, 2016 – The U.S. book and journal publishing industry generated $27.78 billion in net revenue for 2015, representing 2.71 billion in units (volume), according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) StatShot Annual survey. Revenues and unit volume were essentially flat with a decrease of 0.6% from $27.96 billion in revenue from 2014, and a 0.5% increase in units from 2.70 billion units in 2014 (chart below).
StatShot Annual is a yearly statistical survey of publishing’s estimated size and scope. The data include sales and volume for all tracked categories, including trade (fiction/non-fiction/religious), K-12 instructional materials, higher education course materials, university presses and professional books.
Trade books grew slightly in both revenue and volume in 2015 (chart below). The industry’s relative revenue decline was largely due to a challenging year in the education markets, which comprise about one-third of tracked revenues.
2015 Overview: Net Revenue and Unit Growth
|Total net revenue||$27,073,201,451||$27,957,086,149||$27,784,851,263|
|Total net units||2,715,600,793||2,702,337,737||2,714,877,707|
Trade Category: Net Revenue and Unit Growth
|Trade net revenue||$15,131,731,515||$15,430,127,307||$15,836,696,546|
|Trade net units||2,436,542,311||2,431,632,249||2,455,207,555|
Adult Books Grow, Childrens/YA Books Decline
The area of largest growth for the trade category was Adult Books, which grew by 6.0% from $9.87 billion in 2014 to $10.47 billion in revenue in 2015. For the second consecutive year, Adult non-fiction books, which includes adult coloring books, was the category that sold the most units and provided the most revenue in the trade category. Within the Adult Books category, the fastest growing formats in terms of units sold were downloaded audio (up 45.9%), hardback (up 15.1%) and paperback (up 9.1%).
“StatShot Annual 2015 has confirmed print’s marked return. The paper book, just like the eBook, is here to stay,” said Tina Jordan, Vice President, Association of American Publishers. “While young adult titles were very popular last year, in 2015 adult books led the charge with successes like The Girl on the Train and Go Set a Watchman. Those, and adult coloring books like The Secret Garden, helped the Adult Books category grow by nearly $90 million in revenue.”
Childrens/Young Adult Books declined slightly in revenue, from $4.42 billion in 2014 to $4.27 billion in 2015. The fastest growing category in terms of units sold were board books (up 14.0%). Some formats saw increases: downloaded audio was up 1.2% and hardback was up 1.0%. Childrens/Young Adult eBooks saw a 35.0% decline in units sold in 2015 vs. 2014.
Trade Formats: Downloaded Audio Grew Significantly, eBooks Declined
Downloaded audio: Revenue for downloaded audio has nearly doubled since 2012, growing from $299 million to $552 million in 2015. From 2014 to 2015, the growth was substantial: 37.6% in revenue and 41.1% in units.
eBooks: After peaking in 2013 at $3.24 billion, eBook revenue declined to $3.20 billion in 2014 and again in 2015 by 11.3% to $2.84 billion. Unit sales also declined by 9.7%, with eBooks now making up 17.3% of the trade book market.
Paperback books: Paperbacks remain the most popular format in terms of units sold, comprising 40.6% of the market. Mass market adds another 7.3%. Revenue was up for paperbacks in 2015 to $5.23 billion from $5.09 billion in 2014.
Hardback books: Underscoring the return to print, hardback books saw growth in both revenue and units over 2014. Revenue was up 8.3% from $4.98 billion in 2014 to $5.40 billion in 2015.
Number of units sold by format
- Paperback & Mass Market: 1.18 billion
- Hardback: 577 million
- eBook: 424 million
- Children’s Board Books: 89 million
- Physical Audio & Downloaded Audio: 81 million
- Other: 107 million
Physical Store Sales Up, but Online Still Top Sales Channel
Online retail remained the top sales channel for publishers’ revenue in the trade category, with 37.4% of the market. About 806 million units were sold online in 2015.
Publishers saw increased revenue from trade book sales at physical retail stores for the second year in a row. In 2015, physical store sales grew 1.8% from $4.08 billion to $4.15 billion. More than 610 million trade book units were sold in 2015. Physical store sales comprise about 26.2% of publisher revenue.
These sales channel numbers reflect how publishers get books into the marketplace, not retailers’ revenue from consumers. While StatShot channel sales data can provide directional information about trends, the data is limited for trade books, as much of the business occurs through wholesale and distribution.
About StatShot Annual
Produced by AAP, StatShot Annual estimates the total size of the U.S. publishing industry by collecting sales data in dollars and units from nearly 1,800 active U.S. publishers. Data is collected directly from publishers, with the help of distributors. Estimates are used for publishers who do not participate directly, based on their company financial reports, government filings, BooksinPrint, press releases, third party research services, and other third party sources.
Note: All figures represent publishers’ net revenue from all distribution channels (these are not retailer/consumer sales figures). StatShot Annual captures publishers’ aggregated net revenue from the formats we are able to measure across the different categories.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.