AAP StatShot: The United States’ Publishing Industry Gained 12.2 Percent in 2021

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The final 2021 report from the Association of American Publishers shows December up 2.8 percent over December 2020, at US$1.1 billion.

A Coronavirus COVID-19 testing station in New York City’s Times Square, January 16. The new StatShot report from the Association of American Publishers charts consistent growth for each quarter during the first two pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Izabela Sun

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

Calendar Year 2021 Revenues: US$15.4 Billion
The December 2021 StatShot report released this morning (January 26) by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) of course provides the reported yearlong look at the United States’ publishing market, thus this last report from 2021 carries the added significance of some calendar-year results in its year-to-date figures.

The StatShot interpretation provided today to various news media cites total revenues across all categories up 2.8 percent for the month over December 2020, at US$1.1 billion.

And those year-to-date revenues, the AAP reports, were up 12.2 percent at US$15.4 billion for the calendar year 2021.

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.

As we turn to the breakdown of figures, it’s interesting to note a graphic handed to Publishing Perspectives by AAP’s statistics team. In it, you see a solid growth pattern represented in 2019 and in the first two years of the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. As is easily evident the first two pandemic years, 2020 and 2021, show extraordinarily higher growth development, especially in the latter part of each year.

United States trade book publishing sector gains by quarter in 2019 and the first two COVID-19 pandemic years, 2020 and 2021. Image: AAP StatShot December 2021 report, provided to Publishing Perspectives

Trade Revenues (Consumer Books)

Calendar Year 2021 

  • Year-to-date, the industry’s trade revenues were up 11.8 percent at $9.5 billion for the calendar year.

In print formats:

  • Hardback revenues were 11.3 percent, coming in at $3.7 billion
  • Paperbacks were 18.8 percent, with $3.1 billion in revenue
  • Mass market was up 5.5 percent to $240.9 million
  • Board books were up 9.7 percent, with $212.1 million in revenue

In digital formats:

  • Ebook revenues were down 4.7 percent as compared to calendar year 2020, for a total $1.1 billion
  • That avidly watched downloaded audio format was up 13.4 percent, at $766.2 million in revenue
  • Physical audio, following typical patterns, was down 16.4 percent, coming in at $21.6 million

December 2021 Numbers

Image: AAP StatShot December 2021 report

Trade (consumer books) sales were up 0.6 percent in December, coming in at $792.9 million.

In print formats for the month of December in the trade category:

  • Hardback revenues were 3.7 percent, coming in at $298.4 million
  • Paperbacks were up 8.8 percent, with $266.2 million in revenue
  • Mass market was 26.2 percent to $19.1 million
  • Board books were up 20.3 percent, with $20.2 million in revenue.

In digital formats:

  • Ebook revenues were down 5.4 percent for the month as compared to December 2020 for a total of $83.9 million
  • The popular downloaded audio format was down 0.1 percent for the month of December, coming in at $66.0 million in revenue
  • Physical audio was down, as is the usual trend in an era of digital downloads, this time by 17.6 percent, coming in at $1.4 million

As we like to point out with each of these reports, the special industry enthusiasm for downloaded audio is perfectly understandable after almost a decade of double-digit growth. However, downloaded audio accounted in December 2021 for just 8.3 percent of the overall trade market–a typical share of the total. This is something always worth keeping in mind for perspective on the much-watched audio sector.

Religious Press Performance

Calendar Year 2021

On a year-to date basis, religious press revenues were up 11.2 percent, reaching $705.1 million.

  • Hardback revenues were 13.1 percent at $435.7 million in revenue
  • Paperback revenues were up 4.9 percent to $102.7 million
  • Ebook revenues were down 8.0 percent at $49.2 million
  • Downloaded audio revenues were up at 9.4 percent at $39.7 million

December 2021 Numbers

Religious press revenues were up 3.3 percent in December, coming in at $54.2 million.

  • Hardback revenues were 0.5 percent to $33.1 million in revenue
  • Paperback revenues were 0.2 percent to $8.7 million
  • Ebook revenues were 5.2 percent, coming in at $3.3 million
  • Downloaded audio revenues were 10.0 percent at $2.7 million
Education

Calendar Year 2021

Education revenues were $5.4 billion, up 13.8 percent as compared to the calendar year 2020.

Twelve-month PreK-12 revenues were up 34.6 percent, coming in at $2.2 billion. (More in-depth information on PreK-12 Books and Materials Monthly is included in AAP’s PreK-12 monthly report.)

December 2021 Numbers

During December 2021, education revenues were $275.9 million, up 9.5 percent compared with December 2020.

Revenues from higher education course materials were up 6.5 percent for the month, as compared to December 2020, at $216.3 million.

PreK-12 instructional materials revenues were 21.9 percent for December 2021, at $59.5 million.

Professional Books

Calendar Year 2021

Professional books, including business, medical, law, technical and scientific, were up 4.1 percent as compared to calendar year 2020, coming in at $381.9 million.

December 2021 Numbers

Professional book revenues in December 2021 were down 5.1 percent compared to December 2020, at $35.5 million.

Methodology

We’ll quote here the proverbial fine print provided on methodology for this report. 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: (a) The pool of StatShot participants may fluctuate from report to report; and (b) as with any business, it is 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 is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he 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 (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.

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