Why You Should Take the AAP Statshot Annual Revenue Data With a Grain of Salt

Numbers And FinanceEditor’s Note: An email from the eponymous Data Guy crossed my desk this morning which I would like to share with you. He’s seen the data from yesterday’s post on the AAP’s Statshot Annual report, and he recommends that you take it with a grain of salt.

With his permission, I am publishing the email.


Unlike the AAP’s monthly StatShots, these so-called “StatShot Annual” reports are pretty much completely worthless. Here’s Michael Cader’s take (from Publisher’s Lunch):

In contrast to their monthly reports, which collect dollar sales only as actual reported data from about 1,200 publishers, StatShot Annual tabulates more detailed dollar and unit sales data from almost 1,800 publishers and then — to our mind — renders it mostly useless by multiplying it to pretend that we can say something about the other 70,000 or so registered and active publishers who never report data to anyone. …that’s why we are noting the StatShot Annual info in brief only.

To which I can add that these bogus annual “StatShot” numbers from the AAP pretty much contradict every single other source of reasonably reliable industry data on trade print sales that there is.

They fly in the face of:

  • Nielsen BookScan, which measures and tallies point of sale transactions for trade print books through just about every single significant retail channel
  • US Census Retail data and reports measuring monthly and annual Bookstore sales
  • The public sales figures from chain bookstores like B&N & BAM, as well as the ABA’s sales data from member independent bookstores
  • Even the AAP’s own Monthly StatShots, which would then imply that the Big Five and the AAP’s 1200 other members represent maybe 40% of all US trade print sales

The bottom line: these annual StatShot estimates are just wrong.

Embarrassingly wrong. Especially for trade print sales.

William Ockham describes it best: He said that for the AAP’s annual “StatShot” reports to be even remotely in the ballpark, it would require the existence of over a billion additional phantom print books each year, published by publishers no one has ever heard of and sold invisibly through retail channels no one can point to — all of which economic activity remains completely unseen by the US Government.

OTOH, Nielsen’s Bookscan data — and the AAPs own Monthly StatShots — are both fairly useful and reliable, as long as one keeps in mind what they actually measure, and what they don’t.

image by kenteegardin

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