AAP’s StatShot: US Trade Revenues Climb 27.6 Percent Year-to-Date

In News by Porter Anderson

The downturns of April 2020 lead to strong comparative showings by the US industry in April 2021 in the new StatShot report from the Association of American Publishers.

In Manhattan’s Washington Square, April 7. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Masha Zolotukhina

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

NPD’s Mid-June Assessment Is Also Upbeat
The United States’ book market in the StatShot report released today (June 28) by the Association of American Publishers, continues its high levels of performance, with an overall jump of 35.2 percent for trade revenues in April, as compared to April 2020.

And the NPD Group’s report on the week ending June 19–a report also out today–shows print book sales rising 757,000 units “to meet the 2020 position,” as NPD Books’ Kristen McLean writes to the press, “holding the year-to-date growth at 20 percent” in trade print “on a weekly volume of 15.5 million units. In an interesting point, McLean’s assessment from mid-June sees “book sales 27 percent ahead of the same week in 2019.”

Looking at the April-over-April comparison of 2021 to 2020 is perhaps not entirely useful as April represented the nadir of the initial impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in the States, of course. That produces in today’s report a jump of 43.7 percent this April over that month in 2020, reflecting the depression of the book market during the depths of the outbreaks’ uncertainties and the most widespread spread-mitigation efforts.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the AAP’s numbers reflect reported revenue for tracked categories including trade (consumer books); K-12 instructional materials; higher education course materials; professional publishing; and university presses.

Trade Revenues

At that increase of 35.2 percent year-over-year in April, revenues in the trade (consumer books) were at US$738.9 million, at 27.6 percent year-to-date, with $2.8 billion in revenue.

Year-Over-Year Numbers

Image: AAP

In terms of physical paper format revenues during the month of April, in the trade category (remember, this is consumer books):

  • Hardback revenues were up 49.4 percent, coming in at $278.6 million
  • Paperbacks were up 44.0 percent, with $250.0 million in revenue
  • Mass market was up 11.9 percent to $18.1 million
  • Board books were up 24.0 percent, with $12.2 million in revenue
  • Ebook revenues were down 1.2 percent for the month as compared to April of 2020 for a total of $90.8 million
  • The downloaded audio format was up 17.5 percent for April, coming in at $63.1 million in revenue
  • Physical audio–normally on a reliable downward trajectory as digital (downloadable) audio rises–appears on April’s report as making an unusual 32.2 percent jump to $2.1 million. Keep in mind, the AAP cautions, however, that this is one of the effects of the market lows during the pathogen’s impact. In the comparable time frame in 2020, physical audio was down by 44 percent, so today’s boost doesn’t indicate–in case you were concerned–a sudden resurgence of fondness for CDs in April 2021

Year-to-Date Numbers

As of April of this year:

  • Hardback revenues were up 38 percent, coming in at $1.0 billion
  • Paperbacks were up 25.4 percent, with $901.7 million in revenue
  • Mass market was up 30.1 percent to $79.9 million
  • Board books were up 12.5 percent, with $57.1 million in revenue
  • Ebook revenues were up 14.5 percent as compared to the first four months of 2020 for a total of $368.9 million
  • The downloaded audio format was up 20.1 percent, coming in at $252.5 million in revenue
  • Physical audio was up 3.8 percent coming in at $6.9 million
Religious, Educational, and Professional Sectors

A special note from the association is good to start with here, as it helps to explain what will look like some very big jumps in educational publishing. Keep it in mind as you encounter big jumps in April-over-April statistics: “The performance of the education categories during this month,” the team at the Association of American Publishers writes, “may reflect multiple factors, including rebounding business post-COVID, and reduced returns in higher education as more students use digital/online materials (which are rarely returned). In addition, the percentage increase between April 2020 and April 2021 reflects the fact that school districts delayed purchases until later in the year during the pandemic.”

Year-Over-Year Numbers

  • Religious press revenues were up 57 percent in April, coming in at $50.0 million
  • Education revenues in April of this year were $214.1 million, up 81.5 percent compared with April of 2020
  • Revenues from higher education course materials were up 96.6 percent for the month, as compared to April of 2020, coming in at $106.3 million
  • PreK-12 instructional materials revenues were up 68.7 percent for April 2021, at $107.8 million.
  • Professional books, including business, medical, law, technical and scientific, were up 39.2 percent during the month, coming in at $32.0 million

Year-to-Date Numbers

As of April of this year:

  • On a year-to date basis, religious press revenues were up 19.9 percent, at $237.1 million
  • Year-to-date education revenues were $1.1 billion, up 27.4 percent as compared to the first four months of 2020
  • Year-to-date higher education stats were up 24.1 percent, at $847.8 million
  • Year-to-date preK-12 revenues were up 41.4 percent, coming in at $232.2 million
  • Year-to-date professional books were $127.9 million, up 18.4 percent as compared to the first four months of 2020
Methodology Notes

“AAP Statshot reports the monthly and yearly net revenue of publishing houses from US sales to bookstores, wholesalers, direct-to-consumer, online retailers, and other channels.  Statshot draws revenue data from approximately 1,360 publishers, although participation may fluctuate slightly from report to report.

“StatShot reports are designed to give ongoing revenue snapshots across publishing sectors 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 both a month-to-month and year-to-year basis within a given StatShot report.

“Monthly and yearly StatShot reports may not align completely across reporting periods, because: (a) The pool of StatShot participants may fluctuate from report to report; and (b) as in any business, it’s common accounting practice for publishing houses to update and restate their previously reported revenue data. If, for example, a business learns that its revenues were greater in a given year than its reports first indicated, it will restate the revenues in subsequent reports to AAP, permitting AAP in turn to report information that is more accurate than before.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on industry statistics is here. More on the Association of American Publishers is here, more of our coverage of AAP StatShot reports is here, and more on the US market is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing 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.