Summary:

Print books still dominate, but a new report reveals that in 2011, ebooks made up 15 percent of all trade book sales. In addition, digital is now the most popular format for adult fiction. Despite the massive growth of digital, though, bricks-and-mortar stores are still the largest sales channel for publishers.

Print books still dominate, but ebooks made up 15 percent of all trade book sales in 2011. That’s one finding from BookStats 2012, a new report from the Association of American Publishers and Book Industry Study Group. In addition, digital is now the most popular format for adult fiction — making up 30 percent of sales in that category in 2011 and beating individual print formats like hardcover and paperback. Despite the massive growth of digital, though, bricks-and-mortar stores are still the largest sales channel for publishers.

BookStats 2012 collects data from 1,977 book publishers in four sectors (trade/consumer, school/K-12, higher ed, and professional/scholarly). Some top-level findings:

  • Ebooks made up 15 percent of trade publishers’ net sales revenues, or $2.074 billion, in 2011, compared to just 6 percent ($869 million) in 2010. Ebooks also account for 15.5 percent of trade publishers’ unit sales, with 388 million units sold — up from 5 percent (125 million units sold) in 2010. (Note: “Ebooks” here is defined as “all primary e-formats: ebooks, enhanced ebooks and paid mobile apps.”)
  • Trade book sales are relatively flat. Trade publishers pulled in a total of $13.97 billion in revenues in 2011, compared to $13.90 in 2010 — a 0.5 percent increase.
  • The total U.S. book market decreased slightly. Revenues from all book publishers were $27.2 billion in 2011, compared to $27.9 billion in 2010.
  • Publishers are selling more books, though. While revenues were down slightly, unit sales were up 3.4 percent, to 2.77 billion books sold in 2011. (One reason for that could be more cheap ebooks.)
  • Children’s/young adult books saw the highest growth of any category. Sales increased 12 percent in 2011, to $2.78 billion. The growth was driven largely by popular YA series like “The Hunger Games.”
  • Bricks-and-mortar bookstores are still publishers’ primary sales channel. Physical bookstores accounted for 31.5 percent of publishers’ total net dollar sales in 2011 — but that was down 12.6 percent from 2010.
  • Publishers’ direct-to-consumer sales nearly doubled, with revenue from direct sales hitting $1.1 billion in 2011 — up from $702 million in 2010, an increase of 58 percent. The AAP tells me that most of those direct sales were concentrated in the trade and higher education sectors.

Notes: BookStats is published jointly by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. (In the past, the groups conducted separate annual surveys.) The report is the most comprehensive look at the U.S. book publishing industry to date, incorporating net sales revenue and unit data reported 1,977 U.S. publishers. The report tracks sales and units by format (physical, digital, bundles); category; and channel. The full BookStats 2012 report is available for purchase here.

The charts illustrating this post were created by me, not by BookStats.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Borys Shevchuk

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