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Summary:

The U.S. consumer book publishing industry had a strong 2012, fueled in part by the growth of ebooks.

Ebooks are now a relatively stable force in the U.S. trade book publishing industry, making up 20 percent of the trade (consumer) book industry in 2012. BookStats, an annual report from the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, finds that consumer ebooks netted publishers $3.042 billion in revenue in 2012, up 44 percent over 2011. BookStats calculates the entire U.S. trade book industry at $15.049 billion, up 6.9 percent from 2011.

Some other findings from the report, whose topline figures were released Wednesday:

  • Adult fiction is the largest driver of ebook growth, but adult nonfiction and children’s/young adult titles also grew over 2011:
  • Sales of hardcovers and trade paperbacks remained steady in 2012, but the mass market paperback continued its decline. This format is particularly affected by competition from ebooks, BookStats says, because ebooks are released at the same time as hardcovers while mass market paperbacks are released later.
  • Online retail continues to grow as a sales channel, though BookStats cautions that, because its statistics reflect publishers’ net revenues from sales channels and not retailers’ revenue from consumers, these figures can’t serve as a completely accurate picture of the retail market.
  • The total U.S. book market — including educational and professional/scholarly publishing — was $27.12 billion in 2012, BookStats estimates, down 0.9 percent from 2011.

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 incorporates net sales revenue and unit data reported by nearly 2,000 U.S. publishers. It also estimates the size of the entire industry.

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

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Borys Shevchuk

  1. Considering BookStats is working with incomplete information and self-reported data, the headline is misleading — many independent publishers and all self-published authors are excluded, correct?

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    1. Ian: I don’t believe that is the case. BookStats is published by BISG, which culls data from publishers, retailers, wholesalers, as well as Nielsen BookScan, etc. It’s a pretty reputable group and works toward solid, non-biased data creation.

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      1. I am not questioning the reputation of the BookStats, but rather if BookStat’s figures accurately reflect the total size of the U.S. market and ebook sales as a percentage of the total.

        The article says BookStats estimates the size of the entire industry, but it’s not clear how the estimate was created. It also notes “Online retail continues to grow as a sales channel, though BookStats cautions that, because its statistics reflect publishers’ net revenues from sales channels and not retailers’ revenue from consumers, these figures can’t serve as a completely accurate picture of the retail market.”

        For what it’s worth, I am the founder of an independent publishing company that publishes ebooks and paperbacks. I was not contacted for this survey by the Association of American Publishers or the Book Industry Study Group.

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        1. My apologies for the typos. The first sentence should read: “I am not questioning the reputation of BookStats, but rather if the BookStats figures accurately reflect the total size of the U.S. market and ebook sales as a percentage of the total.”

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          1. Got some info re: your concerns:

            “It is important to underscore that all BookStats figures are modelled projections, not actual measured and reported data. The BookStats methodology takes real data collected from approximately 1,400 publishers, and uses a series of calculations and hypotheses to posit extrapolations for roughly 59,000 active publishers (the overwhelming majority of which are very small). Consistent with previous years, only about 60 percent of the BookStats data is actual reported data — the rest (some $11 billion worth) is modelled from those reports.”
            – publishers lunch

            1400 to 59000 is well within the acceptable range for a statistical sample. The sample estimates the population. You will get variations each time you randomly select the 1400 from the 59000, and each time the results will hew to the mean for the population. That’s all that Stats will do — it is not a complete tally and in truth, it doesn’t need to be.

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  2. Laura,
    Thanks for a great article about the ebook market. Interestingly, as a book publicist I have found most recently that the Top Amazon reviewers I work with every day are requesting an ebook version rather than a physical version.

    Ebooks also offer authors many new ways to promote a book at zero cost via the Amazon KDP Select. This is a program where ebooks are offered free for up to 5 days and then Amazon and the author and publicist promote the availability. The beauty of this promotion is that an author can get thousands of downloads in a matter of days and attract new fans and potential buyers of future books.

    The bottom line is that ebooks level the playing field in favor of the author… finally.

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