US February Statshot: Audio in Adult Titles Surpasses Ebooks

In News by Porter Anderson

In books for adults as a sub-category, audio surpassed ebooks for the first time, according to February’s StatShot from AAP.

At the Miami International Boat Show, February 19, the ‘Venetian Causeway’ staging area. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Felix Mizioznikov

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

Adult Books’ Digital Audio Revenues Up 33.5 Percent
As usual lagging a couple of months behind the Circana Books print-market report from the United States, the Association of American Publishers‘ (AAP) StatShot report released to the news media today (May 11) is for February. It shows a month in which the overall US publishing industry, the world’s largest, was up 1.8 percent year to date, the trade being up 1.2 percent, also year-to-date.

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

Trade Revenues

Trade revenues were down 0.4 percent in February, coming in at US$706.3 million.

Year-Over-Year Numbers

Image: AAP

In print formats:

  • Hardback revenues were down 6.4 percent, coming in at $235.5 million
  • Paperbacks were down 0.9 percent, with $244.7 million in revenue
  • Mass market was 3.2 percent to $15.5 million
  • Special bindings were down 5.5 percent, with $16.2 million in revenue

In digital formats:

  • Ebook revenues were down 4.8 percent for the month as compared to February 2022 for a total of $87.5 million
  • The avidly watched digital audio category was up a considerable 31.6 percent for February, at $84.5
  • Physical audio was down 37.0 percent, coming in at $700,000

Year-to-Date Numbers

Year-to-date, the industry’s trade revenues were up 1.2 percent, at $1.5 billion for the first two months of the year.

In print formats:

  • Hardback revenues were down 3.2 percent, coming in at $499.9 million
  • Paperbacks were up 3.7 percent, at $522.4 million in revenue
  • Mass market was up down 20.9 percent to $27.9 million
  • Special bindings were down 8.2 percent, with $32.6 million in revenue

In digital formats:

  • Ebook revenues were down 0.8 percent as compared to the first two months of 2022, for a total $172.6 million
  • The digital audio format was up 20.6 percent, at $145.3 million in revenue
  • Physical audio was down 24.2 percent, coming in at $1.8 million
A New Milestone for Audio in Books for Adults

The AAP’s report points to February as the first time that digital audio has surpassed ebooks in books for adults. We emphasize the “for adults” element only to stress that the handy lead taken by digital audio over ebooks in February is no across the board, but limited to adult content. Specifically:

  • In the trade, books for adults as a sub-category saw digital audio revenues climb 33.5 percent for the month of February, reaching $73.3 million, and surpassing revenues for ebooks for the first time. Ebook revenues for the month were down 7.6 percent coming in at $71.6 million.
  • For the year, digital audio revenues in books for adults were up 21.4 percent, reaching $126.4 million. Ebook revenues were down 1.0 percent, coming in at $144.6 million for the first two months of 2023.
  • Overall, adult book revenues were down 2.1 percent in February, coming in at $428.3 million, and up 2.0 percent, reaching $911.9 million on a year-to-date basis.
Religious Press Performance

Year-Over-Year Numbers

Religious press revenues were up 11 percent in February, at $75.6 million.

  • Hardback revenues were up 12.4 percent to $47.1 million in revenue
  • Paperback revenues were up 13.9 percent to $13.0 million
  • Ebook revenues were down 4.1 percent, coming in at $5.7 million
  • Digital audio revenues were up 8.8 percent at $4.8 million

Year-to-Date Numbers

On a year-to date basis, religious press revenues were 3.3 percent, reaching $146.9 million.

  • Hardback revenues were up 4.5 percent at $88.3 million in revenue
  • Paperback revenues were 3.0 percent to $29.6 million
  • Ebook revenues were down 3.2 percent at $9.9 million
  • Digital audio revenues were 9.0 percent at $7.7 million
Education

During February of this year, revenues from higher education course materials were up 4.7 percent for the month, as compared to February 2022, coming in at $242.9 million, while year-to-date higher education was up 4.3 percent, at $706.2 million, as compared to the first two months of 2022.

Professional Books

Professional books, including business, medical, law, technical and scientific, were down 7.9 percent during the month, coming in at $43.2 million.

Year-to-date, professional books revenues were $87.0 million, down 3.5 percent as compared to the first two months of 2022.

Methodology

We’ll quote here notes on the 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 1,240 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 is more accurate than previously reported.”


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, which factors into how comparisons to performance in 2021 are seen, 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.