By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘Essentially Flat’While the United Kingdom’s book industry last week reported what the Publishers Association terms that market’s best year for publishing in 2019, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) today (July 31) is describing a “slight” step forward in 2019 for book publishing revenues in the United States.
A part of the AAP StatShot reporting system, the newly released data is for calendar year 2019 and estimates that the US book publishing industry generated US$25.93 billion in annual revenue, up 1.1 percent over the same calculation for 2018.
In terms of unit sales, the report estimates that 2.76 billion units were sold.
These figures presented by the association represent publishers’ net revenue from tracked categories (trade, higher education course materials, PreK-12 instructional materials, professional books, and university press), in all formats and from all distribution channels.
Online and Physical Retail in 2019
Here are key findings of the annual report, as selected by the association.
“Overall,” the association’s representatives report in today’s media messaging, “publishing industry revenue was essentially flat,” in 2019, noting that the comparable revenue figure for 2018 was $25.63 billion.
“For the third consecutive year, publisher sales to online retail channels exceeded sales to physical retail channels, with the margin continuing to grow wider.”
- Online retail: sales to online retail were $8.22 billion
- Over the last five years, publisher sales to online retail channels have grown by nearly 20 percent
- Physical retail: sales to physical retail were $5.86 billion
- Over the past five years, publisher sales to physical retailers have decreased by 35.9 percent
Print and Digital Formats in 2019
In the question of print formats vs. digital, the report indicates that, “Nearly half (47 percent) of all revenue” in 2019 came from four print formats: hardcover, board book, paperback, and mass market.
- In the trade industry—which refers to consumer books—print formats held a larger position, at 74.7 percent of revenue
- Hardcover copies accounted for 24.2 percent of that part of the revenue in 2019, although—because of their premium pricing among the formats—they generated 36 percent of total trade revenue
- Ebooks declined by 4.9 percent in 2019, nevertheless contributing $1.94 billion to the overall number
- In five years, 2015 to 2019, ebooks are down 30.8 percent
- In unit sales, ebooks declined slightly by 2.6 percent, nevertheless moving 335.7 million copies in 2019
Audio in 2019
Because audio and audiobooks form such a high point of interest at this point in world publishing’s evolution, it’s worth taking a closer look at this digital format sector, particularly as the United States is the world’s largest market for audio.
Echoing some of the content Publishing Perspectives covered on Thursday (July 30) in our look at the new international audiobook white paper from Frankfurter Buchmesse, the new StatShot report shows downloaded audio to have been in 2019 the fastest growing digital revenue segment, producing $1.31 billion in revenue that year, which was a 15-percent increase over its 2018 performance.
And in that 2015-to-2019 five-year look, StatShot’s figures show a 143.8-percent level of growth.
On Page 18 of the full report, we do see a very responsible additional point about downloaded audio, having to do with this popular format’s place in the overall market.
“Despite the substantial growth in downloaded audio,” the AAP team writes, “it represented only 8.1 percent of trade publisher revenue in 2019. In comparison, ebooks comprised 11.7 percent of revenue in 2019.”
We register this point, not to throw cold water on the audio celebrants of the industry. Any point of growth is good, of course, and many industry players have been relieved to see that the slowdown in audio consumption in the early stages of this year’s coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic seems to have given way to more normal levels.
When any format, however, charts double-digit growth for several years, it’s perfectly logical that that format will take on an outsized aura of prominence in the market. And while enthusiasm for the audio sector is rightful and a welcome positive dynamic, keeping in mind that only board books (5.0 percent), physical audio (0.6 percent) and mass market (3.0 percent) are smaller can help keep things in perspective.
We’ll quote here the proverbial fine print provided on methodology for this report, particularly because the annual view is not entirely processed as the monthly reports are. We’ve edited only slightly, to minimize promotional language.
“The StatShot Annual Report is based on data prepared by Management Practice Inc. (MPI), AAP’s statistics partner, and offers a financial overview of the book publishing industry that is more than the sum of AAP’s monthly statistics analyses.
“StatShot Annual employs a methodology that combines annual data submitted by publishers and distributors, along with market modeling, to estimate the total volume of the US publishing industry. Additionally, StatShot Annual reports estimated revenue and unit sales in the following market segments: trade (consumer books), higher education, PreK-12, professional, and university presses.
“AAP (or its predecessor) has provided this service in a variety of forms since 1947.
“MPI states the results of the survey are accurate at a 95-percent confidence level, plus or minus 5 percentage points. Percentages may not add to 100 percent due to rounding.”
More from Publishing Perspectives on industry statistics is here. And more on the Association of American Publishers is here. More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.