US October StatShot from AAP: Industry Up 13.7 Percent Year to Date

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The signals look good for the United States’ book trade, as it enters the last quarter of 2021, per the October StatShot report from the Association of American Publishers.

Iconic holiday shopping season sculpture, passed by masked pedestrians on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan as the publishing industry watches to see how Christmas revenues go. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Massimo Giachetti

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

Year-to-Date Revenues: Up 13.7 Percent
In its October 2021 StatShot report released this morning (December 6), the Association of American Publishers (AAP)  cites total revenues across all categories up 23.1 percent over October 2020, the first year of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Year-to-date revenues, the AAP reports, were up 13.7 percent at US$13.1 billion.

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

  • Hardback revenues were up 16 percent, coming in at $529.2 million
  • Paperbacks were up 35.2 percent, with $326.2 million in revenue
  • Mass market was up 7 percent to $21.1 million
  • Board books were down 2.3 percent, with $26.4 million in revenue.

In digital formats:

  • Ebook revenues were down 12.3 percent for the month as compared to October of 2020 for a total of $84.0 million
  • The avidly watched downloaded audio format was up 10.3 percent for October, coming in at $62.7 million in revenue
  • Physical audio was down 45.3 percent coming in at $1.6 million

As we like to point out with each of these reports, the special enthusiasm for downloaded audio is perfectly understandable after some nine years of double-digit growth like that seen in today’s report. However, downloaded audio accounts for just 5.6 percent of the overall trade market in October’s report, something always worth keeping in mind for perspective.

Year-to-Date Numbers

  • Year-to-date, the industry’s trade revenues were up 14.1 percent, at $7.8 billion for the first 10 months of the year.
  • Hardback revenues were up 15.7 percent, coming in at $3.0 billion
  • Paperbacks were up 21.3 percent, with $2.6 billion in revenue
  • Mass market was up 6.0 percent to $198.5 million
  • Board books were up 8.8 percent, with $169.2 million in revenue

In digital formats:

  • Ebook revenues were down 5.6 percent as compared to the first 10 months of 2020, for a total $892.5 million
  • The downloaded audio format was up 14.2 percent, at $632.0 million in revenue
  • Physical audio was down 10.9 percent coming in at $17.7 million
Religious Press Performance

Year Over Year Numbers

Religious press revenues were up 29.4 percent in October, coming in at $71.3 million.

  • Hardback revenues were up 38.3 percent to $47.9 million in revenue
  • Paperback revenues were up 4.8 percent to $8.3 million
  • Ebook revenues were down 11.0 percent coming in at $3.7 million
  • Downloaded audio revenues were up 7.7 percent at $2.8 million

Year-to-Date Numbers

On a year-to date basis, religious press revenues were up 14.4 percent, reaching $585.2 million.

  • Hardback revenues were up 19.1 percent at $359.3 million in revenue
  • Paperback revenues were up 5.2 percent to $86.2 million
  • Ebook revenues were down 9.0 percent at $42.1 million
  • Downloaded audio revenues were up 7.5 percent at $32.9 million

During October of 2021, education revenues were $284.4 million, up 62.4 percent compared with October of 2020, and year-to-date education revenues were $4.9 billion, up 13.7 percent as compared to the first ten months of 2020.

Revenues from higher education course materials were up 42.8 percent for the month, as compared to October of 2020, coming in at $150.1 million, while year-to-date higher education was up 1.4 percent, at $2.8 billion.

PreK-12 instructional materials revenues were up a jaw-dropping 91.9 percent for October 2021, at $134.3 million.

Year-to-date PreK-12 revenues were up 35.4 percent, coming in at $2.1 billion. More in-depth information on PreK-12 books and materials monthly is included in AAP’s PreK-12 monthly report (accessible to AAP members). And needless to say, the big numbers in education in October likely are being driven by the fact that we’re in the second year, not the first year, of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

They do make for interesting reading, however. In a copy of the full report provided to Publishing Perspectives, for example, we can look at these jumps in PreK-12 figures, month over month, with net sales for several states highlighted.

Florida, for example, saw a 171.9-percent jump in PreK-6 in net sales, Texas with 30.3 percent on the same PreK-6 line, and California with just a 5.8-percent rise in PreK-6 for October 2021 over October 2020. We don’t want to take advantage further of the proprietary information provided to us, but at the very least, the disparities between the experiences various parts of the United States are having in this latter part of the second pandemic year are striking.

Professional Books

Professional books, including business, medical, law, technical and scientific, were up 5.3 percent during the month, coming in at $29.5 million.

Year-to-date professional books revenues were $321.3 million, up 5 percent as compared to the first ten months of 2020.


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 and to do away with a few institutional capitalizations.

“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:

  • The pool of StatShot participants may fluctuate from report to report
  • Like 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’s 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 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.