AAP StatShot: US Book Industry Flat in First Quarter

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

In its look at Q1 2024, the American publishers’ StatShot tracking analysis sees children’s and YA books under pressure in March.

In Washington, DC, where the Association of American Publishers has its offices, the cherry trees tend to blossom in the final week of March. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Pete Van Vleet

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

Digital Audio Up 15.3 Percent in Q1
IIn its new Q1 report for 2024, the StatShot report released this morning (May 16) from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) cites total revenues across all categories were up 0.2 percent over the first three months of 2023, coming in at US$3 billion.

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

In the report on the most recent of the three months, March, the program makes an interesting point about overall sales and digital sales in the United States.

“Trade net sales were down almost 10 percent in March,” the report notes. “However, digital audio sales increased 14 percent. With digital audio sales almost 12 percent of the total trade net sales, the format is up 15 percent year-to-date. Hardback and paperback sales, the preferred formats, saw a decline of 14 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in March.

“Year-to-date, hardback and paperback are down 5 percent and 3 percent, respectively. Ebook sales trends show an increase with 12.4 percent of total net sales up from 10.5 percent in January and 12 percent year-t0-date.”

Another interesting point about March performance has to do with children’s and YA (young adult) fiction, both of which showed “a sharp decline in both gross and net sales of 15.7 percent and 17.5  percent respectively. However,” the StatShot team writes, “nonfiction enjoyed a nearly 1-percent increase in net sales despite a 3-percent decrease in gross sales. This is because of a large decrease in returns. The first quarter of 2024 shows this category is struggling with a nearly 10-percent decrease year-to-date.”

Trade Revenues, Q1 2024

Image: Association of American Publishers

Trade revenues (consumer books) through March of this year were down 2.8 percent, at $2.1 billion.

In print formats:

  • Hardback revenues were down 4.9 percent, coming in at $733.2 million
  • Paperbacks were down 3.4 percent, with $756.1 million in revenue
  • Mass market was down 25.7 percent to $31.0 million
  • Special bindings were down 7.8 percent, with $48.5 million in revenue

In digital formats:

  • Ebook revenues were down 1.5 percent as compared to the first three months of 2023, for a total of $255.6 million
  • Digital audio was up 15.3 percent for the first three months, coming in at $243.6 million in revenue
  • Physical audio was down 29.1 percent coming in at $2.1 million
Trade Revenues by Month

January

Trade (consumer books) sales were up 0.6 percent in January, coming in at $745.8 million.

In print formats:

  • Hardback revenues were down 0.8 percent, coming in at $268.8 million
  • Paperbacks were down 2.1 percent, at $264.4 million in revenue
  • Mass market was up 7.4 percent to $13.6 million
  • Special bindings were down 1.4 percent, with $16.6 million in revenue

February

Trade (consumer books) sales were up 0.6 percent in February, coming in at $717.9 million.

  • Hardback revenues were up 0.4  percent, coming in at $245.2 million
  • Paperbacks were up 2.5 percent, with $249.1 million in revenue
  • Mass market was down 40.7 percent to $9.3 million
  • Special bindings were down 1.4 percent, with $16.6 million in revenue

March

Trade (consumer books) sales were down 9.5 percent in March, coming in at $661.2 million.

  • Hardback revenues were down 14.4 percent, coming in at $219.2 million
  • Paperbacks were down 10.0 percent, with $242.6 million in revenue
  • Mass market was down 39.6 percent to $8.2 million
  • Special bindings were down 24.0 percent, with $14.9 million in revenue
Religious Press Performance: Up 5.2 Percent in Q1

Religious press revenues were up 5.2 percent during the first three months of 2024, coming in at $215.2 million.

  • Hardback revenues were up 7.6 percent to $130.1 million in revenue
  • Paperback revenues were down 0.3 percent to $42.3 million
  • Ebook revenues were up 6.6 percent, coming in at $15.2 million
  • Digital audio revenues were up 9.5 percent at $12.7 million
Education Performance: Up 11.5 Percent in Q1

During the first quarter, revenues from higher education course materials were $691.8 million, up 11.5 percent compared with the first quarter of 2023.

  • Print revenues were up 16.0 percent at $87.4 million for the quarter
  • Inclusive-access revenues were up 25.9 percent at $256.1 million
  • Non-inclusive-access digital revenues were up 1.8 percent at $321.3 million
Professional Books Performance: Down 2.9 Percent in Q1

Professional books, including business, medical, law, technical and scientific, were down 2.9 percent during the first three months of the year, coming in at $111.5 million.

About the AAP StatShot Reports

The StatShot program provides this statement: “The Association of American Publishers’ StatShot reports the monthly and yearly net revenue of publishing houses from United States sales to bookstores, wholesalers, direct-to-consumer, online retailers, and other channels. StatShot draws revenue data from approximately 1,280 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 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.

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.