AAP’s StatShot: US Trade Books Up 17.9 Percent in July, Year Over Year

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The pandemic summer continues to produce strong book sales results for most segments of the US publishing market, in StatShot figures from the Association of American Publishers.

A deserted Ocean Drive in Mami Beach on July 16. Three counties of Florida—Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach—have formed the epicenter of the pandemic in the state, which has a population of 21.4 million. On Wednesday (September 9), Florida surpassed 12,000 deaths and today (September 10) reports 654,731 cases, according to the state department of health data. Image – iStockphoto: Felix Mizioznikov

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

Hardcover Trade: Up 47 Percent Year Over Year
Parts of the United States’ publishing industry continue to show heartening resilience in the face of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic per today’s release of the July 2020 StatShot report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

Remarkably, considering the increasingly challenges of 2020, the year-to-date look—this year’s first seven months as compared to 2019’s first seven months—shows hardcover sales up 5.1 percent, at $1.4 billion; board books up 13.8 percent to $86.8 million; paperbacks up 1.4 percent to $1.4 billion.

The most popular headline from the July report is sure to be that the industry’s trade sector (meaning books marketed to consumers) was up 17.9 percent year-over-year.

In the July 2020 over July 2019 comparison:

  • Hardcover revenues jumped 47.0 percent, rising to US$246 million
  • Board books for children went 20.4 percent, to $16.5 million in revenue
  • Paperbacks were down by just 0.2 percent, at $211.2 million in revenue

Here’s a chart with the full picture in that comparison of July 2020 to July 2019.

Image: AAP

Looking past print data, notice that in the July-over-July comparison, ebooks soared 25 percent, coming to $103.7 million in July 2020.

Year-to-date, ebooks rose 14.9 percent over the first seven months of 2019, reaching $652.9.

The team at AAP calls to our attention that ebook revenues in children’s and YA—frequently considered far less salable categories for digital reading—jumped 76.4 percent in July, reaching $11.6 million. Year-to-date, those ebooks for children and young adults rose 63.3 percent in the first seven months of the year over the same period in 2019, revenues reaching $73.2 million.

In a discussion of growing importance, this gives fuel to the question of how much acceleration of digital adoption has been driven by the conditions of the pandemic? Are there former print readers who reached for these glow-in-the-dark reads this summer, only to discover that they like digital reading more than they expected?

In downloadable audio, remember that the category has been on a tear since 2012, although in July it still comprised only 8.4 percent of the overall market’s formats. Its growth numbers are less eye-opening than those of ebooks, but audio has been moving at a fast clip for years. In July 2020, downloaded audio rose 24.9 percent over July 2019, coming to $58.1 million. Year-to-date, downloaded audio was up 15.6 percent over the same seven months of 2019, at $374.7 million.

The Wider View

The StatShot, of course, covers more than the trade, including K-12 instructional materials, higher education course materials, professional publishing, and university presses.

All roads through the pandemic summer, of course, didn’t lead to the July gains that the trade categories saw.

Image: AAP

Across all categories in July 2020 as compared to July 2019 (the above chart), total revenues were close to $1.8 billion, a decline of 9.4 percent.

Year-to-date (the chart below), this translates to $7.5 billion for the overall total revenues in the first seven months of 2020 as compared to the first seven months of 2019, a decline of 5.8 percent.

Image: AAP

And here’s a look at the percentages of the July 2020 StatShot report’s results, which we referenced earlier in terms of the 8.4 percent of the market represented by downloaded audio.

Image: AAP

Religious and Educational Statistics

Religious presses, the AAP team reports, saw revenues up 4.0 percent in July of this year over July 2019, at $42.5 million. On a year-to-date basis, the religious press revenues were flat, showing a decline of 0.2 percent and revenues of $358.5 million for the first seven months of the year.

And in terms of educational areas 0f the industry, year-to-date revenues were down 18.7 percent, at $2.84 billion.

  • Revenues from higher education course materials were down 21.9 percent for the month, as compared to July of 2019, coming in at $425.7 million
  • PreK-12 instructional materials revenues were down 24.9 percent for July 2020, at $549.3 million
  • Revenues from higher education course materials were down 5.2 percent to $1.38 billion on a year-to-date basis
  • PreK-12 instructional materials revenues were $1.46 billion on a year-to-date basis, a drop of 28.3 percent compared to the first seven months of last year
  • Professional books, including business, medical, law, technical and scientific, declined 20.3 percent during the month, coming in at $80.2 million. The category was down 0.7 percent for the first seven months of the year, with $337.2 million in revenue
  • University presses were up 18.5 percent as compared to July of 2019, bringing in $5.0 million in revenue. On a year-to-date basis, University Presses declined 9.0 percent, bringing in $26.7 million for the first seven months of 2020.
The Pandemic and Debate in the States

In the 7:28 a.m. ET update (1128 GMT) of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the total American caseload comes to 6,363,300 COVID-19 infections, and 190,909 fatalities in a population of 328 million.

The biggest news story relative to the virus at this writing centers on revelations in Bob Woodward’s forthcoming Rage (Simon & Schuster, September 15) in which Donald Trump admits to Woodward in taped conversations  that in early February he knew that the coronavirus was spreading by airborne transmission and was deadly.

Instead of informing the American public—or creating a national plan to try to save lives—he concedes to Woodward that he downplayed these facts because, he says, “I didn’t want to create a panic.”

Publishing Perspectives has obtained a copy of Rage prior to its publication.

From the book, part of Woodward’s account of a February 7 call at 9 p.m. from Trump:

“Trump said, ‘It’s a very tricky situation.’

“What made it ‘tricky’?

“‘It goes through the air,’ Trump said. ‘That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But in the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.’ …

“I’d heard no one calling for any change in Americans’ behavior other than not traveling to China. Americans went about their daily lives, including more than 60 million who traveled by air domestically that month.

“In our call, Trump had surprising detail about the virus.

“Trump continued, ‘Pretty amazing. This is more deadly’ than the flu, maybe five times more so.

“‘This is deadly stuff,’ Trump repeated.”

About the StatShot Report

From the association, these disclaimers are always worth reviewing.

“Publisher net revenue, including sales to bookstores, wholesalers, direct to consumer, online retailers, etc., is tracked monthly by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and includes revenue from about 1,360 publishers, with participation subject to change over time.

“StatShot reports are designed to give an up-to-date snapshot of the publishing industry using the best data currently available. The reports reflect participants’ most recent reported revenue for current and previous periods, enabling readers to compare revenue on a year-to-year basis within a given StatShot report.

“It is not, however, possible to make apples-to-apples comparisons to StatShot reports issued in previous years because:

“The number of StatShot participants fluctuates over time, with the pool of participants growing or shrinking in each report

“It is a common accounting practices for businesses, including publishers, to restate revenue numbers based on updated information. If, for example, a business learns that its revenues were greater in a given year than its reports indicated, it will restate the revenues in subsequent reports, providing information that is more up-to-date and accurate.”

In other words, revisions are not unusual.


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.

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 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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