AAP’s StatShot: US Publishing Up 11.1 Percent in May

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The monthly report from the Association of American Publishers sees the United States’ publishing industry up 23.4 percent year-to-date over its January-to-May performance in 2020.

In many parts of the States, citizens are wearing masks again inside public spaces like stores–even if they’re fully vaccinated–as the ‘delta’ variant of COVID-19 pushes up infection numbers. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Nicholas Nace

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

Downloaded Audio Up 11.9 Percent in May
In its May 2021 StatShot report, released today (July 21), the Association of American Publisher reports that total revenues across all categories were up 11.1 percent, with the monetary total being US$1.1 billion. Year-to-date revenues were up 23.4 percent, at $5.1 billion, for January through May.

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

Year-Over-Year Numbers

Trade (consumer books) sales were up 7.9 percent in May, coming in at $685.2 million.

  • Hardback revenues were up 18.7 percent, coming in at $252.8 million
  • Paperbacks were up 14.5 percent, with $229.9 million in revenue
  • Mass market was down 15.1 percent to $19.2 million
  • Board books were up 4.8 percent, with $9.0 million in revenue
  • Ebook revenues were down 23.4 percent for the month as compared to May of 2020 for a total of $86.3 million
  • The downloaded audio format was up 11.9 percent for May, coming in at $61.3 million in revenue
  • Physical audio was up 48.5 percent, coming in at $2.1 million

Year-to-Date Numbers

As of May this year:

  • Hardback revenues were up 33.8 percent, coming at $1.3 billion
  • Paperbacks were up 23.0 percent, with $1.1 billion in revenue
  • Mass market was up 18.0 percent to $99.1 million
  • Board books were up 9.6 percent, with $66.0 million in revenue
  • Ebook revenues were up 4.7 percent as compared to the first five months of 2020 for a total $455.2 million
  • Downloaded audio was up 18.4 percent, at $313.8 million in revenue
  • Physical audio was up 11.7 percent coming in at $9.0 million
Religious, Educational, and Professional Sectors

A note from the association today relative to the education categories’ performances points out that results “may reflect multiple factors, including rebounding business. In addition, the percentage increase between May 2020 and May 2021 reflects the fact that school districts delayed purchases until later in the year” amid conditions created by the still ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, staging a resurgence in many parts of the US market through the heightened intensity of the B.1.617.2 “delta” variant.

Year-Over-Year Numbers

  • Religious press revenues were down 5.3 percent in May, coming in at $52.5 million
  • Education revenues were $342.7 million, up 21.5 percent compared with May of 2020
  • Revenues from higher education course materials were down 8.3 percent for the month, as compared to May of 2020, at $132.1 million
  • PreK-12 instructional materials revenues were up 52.6 percent for May 2021, at $210.6 million
  • Professional books, including business, medical, law, technical and scientific titles, were down 18.4 percent during the month, coming in at $28.6 million

Year-to-Date Numbers

  • On a year-to date basis, religious press revenues were up 14.4 percent, at $289.6 million
  • Education revenues were $1.4 billion, up 26.0 percent as compared to the first five months of 2020
  • Higher education was up 18.5 percent, coming in at $980.2 million
  • PreK-12 revenues were up 46.5 percent, at $442.9 million
  • Professional books were at $156.5 million, up 9.4 percent as compared to the first five months’ performance in 2020
Methodology Notes

From the association’s media messaging, “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 2019 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 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. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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