US Publishers’ StatShot 2017 Report: Fifth Year of Double-Digit Audiobooks Growth

In News by Porter Anderson

The Association of American Publishers StatShot program cites 29.7-percent growth over 2016 in downloaded audiobook revenue, despite overall flat performance in publisher revenue in 2017.

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By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Audiobook Revenue Has Nearly Tripled in Five Years

In its release on May 9 of 2017 data from the StatShot tracking program, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) is reporting that overall revenue for American publishers was flat at US$14.7 billion in 2017—a rise of $57.5 million, or 0.4 percent, from 2016.

These numbers include sales for all tracked categories:

  • Trade, including fiction, non-fiction, and religious
  • PreK-12 instructional materials
  • Higher education course materials
  • Professional publishing, and university presses

Several categories that had declined in 2016 rebounded in 2017, including adult books, university press books, and professional books.

An increase of $96 million (1.3 percent) is being cited in trade consumer books, bringing that sector to $7.6 billion in 2017. That change is seen as being centered in adult books where there was a 3-percent uptick in revenue. The adult books category accounts, the AAP says, for more than 65 percent of revenue for trade books.

The figures represented in StatShot are described as representing “publishers’ net revenue for the US.” More than 1,5000 publishers reportedly submit their data directly to the AAP.

In the summer, the AAP will produce its StatShot annual report, “which includes reporting from additional publishers and data about unit sales and channels,” as an enhanced look at the top lines today.

In terms of trends, the US publishers’ association cites three key observations, starting with a fifth year of audio growth:

  • In growth percentage, downloaded audio dominated with 29.7-percent growth compared to 2016. This is the fifth year of double-digit growth for this format, revenue nearly tripling to what it was in 2012
  • Ebook sales were seen to decline for a third year by 4.7 percent. That’s a much lower rate of decline than has been seen in past years—in 2015 and 2016, the AAP saw double-digit declines for ebooks.  And one exception was the reportage from religious presses, which saw a revenue increase in ebooks.
  • Higher education publishers’ revenue is reported to have been flat in 2017 (an increase of only 0.2 percent. This did, however, follow a decline in the previous year.
  • Adult books showed an increase over 2016 of $148.1 million

2017 StatShot Chart: Association of American Publishers

The AAP’s Marisa Bluestone provides several interesting points of observation around educational, professional, and scholarly publishing:

  • The basically flat performance in educational course materials in 2017 (as opposed to previous downturns) was “primarily due to a reduction in returns,” which were seen to be running at a substantial 20.6 percent less than in 2016.
  • PreK-12 instructional materials declined by 3.6 percent in 2017, as  compared to 2016. Revenue for PreK-6 books declined by 12.1 percent, while revenue for 6-12 books increased by 10.2 percent, with growth coming from adoption states.
  • After two years of declines, growth was seen in 2017 in both university presses (up 5.3 percent) and professional books (up 8.4 percent), and that includes business, medical, law, scientific and technical books.

2017 StatShot Chart: Association of American Publishers

As always, the AAP clarifies that publisher net revenue is tracked monthly by the association and includes sales data from more than 1,200 publishers. AAP also tracks revenue annually with its StatShot annual report, which includes reporting from additional publishers and data about unit sales and channels.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.