AAP StatShot Annual Report 2020: US Book Revenues Flat at $25.71 Billion

In News by Porter Anderson

AAP’s Maria A. Pallante praises ‘the incredible dedication and innovation of the industry’ in a remarkable year’s outcome.

Looking back at 2020: In Manhattan on May 8. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Chain Gang Pictures

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

Downloaded Audio Was Up 13.2 Percent
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) today released the StatShot Annual report for calendar year 2020, estimating that the United States’ book publishing industry generated US$25.71 billion, a slight decrease of 0.2 percent from 2019 revenue of $25.77 billion.

The AAP makes the point that this is consistent with past StatShot reports, the American book publishing industry’s revenue having ranged between $25 billion and $26 billion since 2016.

Maria A. Pallante

In a prepared statement, Maria A. Pallante, AAP’s president and CEO, is quoted, saying, “The 2020 results are remarkable and inspirational for a year that people will long associate with an unprecedented public health crisis, worldwide suffering, and colossal business disruptions.

“That publishing is resilient is nothing new, but we should nevertheless take a moment to recognize the incredible dedication and innovation of the industry in serving readers and the public interest during such an isolating and confusing time.”

Here’s a quick breakdown by sector:

  • Trade: In 2020, total revenue, including directly reported and estimated data, in the industry’s largest category, trade (consumer books), increased by an estimated 6.0 percent to $16.67 billion, and by 8.6 percent in directly reported revenue
  • Higher education: Revenue from higher education declined 5.7 percent to $3.10 billion
  • PreK–12:  Revenue declined 12.3 percent to $3.84 billion
  • Professional books: Revenue declined 14.5 percent to $1.68 billion
  • University presses: The smallest category reported that it grew slightly, by 2.9 percent to $391.7 million in 2020
What’s New in StatShot Annual 2020

The AAP staff has included notes this time, pointing out updates to the way these figures are being reported. The gist of this is that while Bowker’s resources are being used to broaden the information made available to the StatShot survey, the companies that report to it were asked to restate their data. This means that, “Because participants submitted new data for all five years, the data expressed in this StatShot annual may vary from data that was previously reported in AAP’s calendar year 2019 report, and/or in monthly analyses or in data publicly reported in the media.”

Nevertheless, the new format for reportage means that there’s less estimation work going into the production of StatShot. In terms of the companies that report to it, the level of reliability has gone up, making it a more valuable tool for industry professionals.

2020 StatShot Annual Report Highlights
  • While the market was flat overall (-0.2 percent), trade books had a strong year, up 6.0 percent, as many consumers turned to reading and listening to both fiction and non-fiction with renewed interest and commitment.
  • Print books continued to dominate the market during the year, with hardback, paperback, and special bindings each seeing an increase.
  • While ebook revenue had declined since 2014, during calendar year 2020 the category was up 11.7 percent, coming in at an estimated $2.12 billion, presumably as part of the digital acceleration that led many in lockdowns and other constrained conditions to try reading electronically.
  • Downloaded audio continued to grow, and was up 13.2 percent as compared to 2019, with an estimated revenue of $1.42 billion for the year.
  • The US export market declined 2.8 percent to $1.27 billion during 2020.
A First: Online Retail Represents 50 Percent of Revenues

On November 4, 2020, in Manhattan. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Massimo Giachetti

Retail effects, of course, were among the most acutely affected by coronavirus COVID-19 spread-mitigation efforts and the clearest indicator in terms of digital acceleration.

  • The online retail channel–which includes sales of digital products as well as physical products sold via online platforms–increased 19.2 percent, reaching $9.53 billion in revenue, and representing 37.1 percent of all estimated industry revenue.
  • As we know, bookstores experienced lower foot traffic, and as a result physical retail, which comprises all sales to bookstores and other traditional retailers, including their online sales, saw a year-over-year decline of 11.3 percent, coming in at $5.13 billion.

In terms of trade (consumer books) publishers, 2020 marked the first time that online retail represented 50 percent of revenues, up from 43.3 percent in 2019. There are details of interest on this in the full report.

For example, for a fifth year, publisher sales to online retail channels exceeded sales to physical retail channels, with the margin continuing to grow wider. Sales to online retail were substantially higher, at $9.53 billion compared to sales to physical retail were $5.13 billion

Over the course of the last five years, publisher sales to online retail channels have grown by 23.1 percent, while publisher sales to physical retail have decreased by 31.1 percent.

In the online retail channel, 53.3 percent of publishers’ sales were print formats (hardback, paperback, mass market, and special bindings).

By contrast, 33.3 percent of publishers’ sales were digital in the online channel ebooks and downloaded audio:

    • Some 10.4 percent were instructional materials
    • Ebooks represented 20.6 percent of publishers’ online-channel sales
    • Downloaded audio, an unfailingly exciting format to so many, represented 12.6 percent of publishers’ online sales
    • Only 3.0 percent were physical audio or other formats
    • Some 10.4 percent were instructional materials,
  • The downloaded audio format, perennially exciting to many, came in at 12.6 percent
  • Just 3.0 percent were in physical audio or “other” formats
Subcategories in Comparison

Park Avenue at 49th Street in New York City, October 12, 2020. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Chain Gang Pictures

In terms of subcategories in the trade:

All trade subcategories except religious presses experienced revenue growth.

  • Adult fiction was up 6.2 percent
  • Adult nonfiction up 11.2 percent
  • Children’s and YA nonfiction up 9.1 percent
  • Children’s and YA fiction up 2.1 percent
  • Religious Presses declined by 8.4%

The full report is available for $395 at the AAP’s store.


From the association:

“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’s more than the sum of AAP’s monthly statistics analyses.

“StatShot Annual employs a unique methodology that combines annual data submitted by publishers and distributors, along with market modeling, to estimate the total volume of the U.S. publishing industry. Additionally, StatShot annual reports estimate 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. Participants are listed at the end of the report. 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.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

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.