AAP StatShot Monthly Report for October: A Rare Rise for Ebooks

In News by Porter Anderson

For a second time in two years, the Association of American Publishers cites a rise in ebook revenues, as downloaded audio charges ahead as the main gainer.

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

Overall Flat Revenues, Year Over Year
In its release of its October StatShot monthly report, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) cites “variations from 2018’s norms” but without upending year-to-date trends.

The variations in question have to do with several formats.

Ebooks, for example, diverged from 2018 trends so far, showing some growth (up 4.4 percent) while there was a decline in revenue for hardcover books (down 7.5 percent). The overall trend for the year to date, January to October, has continued to show ebook revenues down 3.1 percent over the same period in 2017.

But it’s worth noting that October now becomes the second time in two years that publishers have seen a rise in ebook revenues, albeit in this modest range. Compared to the October of last year, ebooks were second only to downloaded audio in showing revenue growth.

Of course, downloaded audio remains the darling of the industry at this point, with the highest revenue growth level, year to date, up a commanding 37.7 percent.

The AAP offers a useful chart to the media with this report in which we see ebooks annual revenue as determined by the organization’s StatShot reports from 2014 to this year.

Trade ebook sales for October 2014 to 2018. Source: AAP

Overall, the association is reporting flat revenues from October last year to this. Those revenues, as usual, include sales to bookstores, wholesalers, direct to consumers, online retail outlets, and so on. They came in at $1.16 billion for October 2018, which is down 0.8 percent from $1.17 for October 2017.

Trade categories were either flat or declining this year in October, while educational and scholarly publishing saw some gains.

In year-to-date assessments, the association sees revenue for trade publishers up by $213.8 million or 3.8 percent. Despite those gains, overall publisher revenue came in down 0.7 percent or $87.2 million for all categories tracked, comprising trade, pre-12 instructional materials, higher education course materials, professional publishing and university presses.

Trade Publishing

January to October: Trade book revenue (in millions)

Category January – October 2018 January to October 2017 Percent Change
Adult Fiction, Nonfiction $4159.70 $4000.30 4.00%
Children’s, YA $1686.30 $1656.10 1.80%
Religious Presses $490.60 $466.40 5.20%
Total $6336.60 $6122.80 3.50%

Source: AAP

January to October: Total trade revenue by format (in millions)

Format January – October 2018 January to October 2017 Percent Change
Hardcover $2383.70 $2302.40 3.50%
Paperback and Mass Market $2238.60 $2197.00 1.90%
Ebooks $857.20 $885.10 -3.10%
Downloaded Audio $379.60 $275.60 37.70%
Physical Audio $37.30 $48.00 -22.30%
Board Books $118.70 $117.40 1.10%
Other $321.50 $297.30 8.10%

Source: AAP

Educational and Scholarly Publishing

Showing improvement over their performances in recent months, educational and scholarly publishing houses reported increased revenue in higher education, preK-12, and university presses.

Overall, the AAP reports, however, the sector this year is lagging its performance last year in the same time frame.

With regard to the listing on the chart for professional books, the association clarifies that 2017 and 2018 figures “reflect adjustments made to accommodate routine publishers’ restatements.

AAP’s StatShot monthly reports data as submitted by participating publishers, which includes restatements of the current and prior year, to provide the most current data available.

January to October: Education and Scholarly Publishing (in millions)

Category January – October 2018 January to October 2017 Percent Change
Higher Education Course Materials $2879.10 $3062.00 -6.00%
PreK-12 Instructional Materials $2532.70 $2656.20 -4.60%
Professional Books $471.00 $467.20 -0.80%
University Presses $42.80 $46.50 -7.80%

Source: AAP

And we add, as ever, the organization’s explainer of the methodology behind the StatShot reports: “Publisher net revenue is tracked monthly by the AAP and includes revenue from about 1,100 publishers, with participation subject to change over time. The StatShot annual, higher education annual, and preK-12 annual reports for 2017 are available for purchase, and additional information about them can be found here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on industry statistics is here. And more on the Association of American Publishers is here.

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.com, 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.