AAP Reports eBook Revenues Down 18.7% in February 2016

5573381914_2d2ed9a224_b The Association of American Publishers has released its monthly report for February 2016, and for the most part the news is bad.

Total trade revenues for the 1,200 odd publishers which submit their data to the AAP were down about 1% from February 2015 and down 8.2% for the Jan–Feb period. YA and religious presses were both up, but the 6.6% decline in adult trade revenues depressed the entire category.

In terms of formats, audiobook revenues continue to grow at their usual clip. Hardback and paperback revenues were up (4.6% and 9.8%, respectively).

And as expected, ebook revenues continued to decline. They were down 18.7% from February 2015.

press release:

Publishers’ revenues were up Feb. 2016, compared to Feb. 2015. Despite gains in Childrens/YA Books and Religious Presses, a decline in Adult Books meant an overall decline for Trade books of 0.9% Feb. 2016 vs. Feb. 2015 and 8.2% year-to-date vs. 2015.  Also within trade, downloaded audio and print formats continued to grow as eBooks declined.

Big Picture Data

  • Publishers’ book sales for Feb. 2016 were $662.2 million, up 4.2% from $597.4 million in Feb. 2015. These numbers include sales for all tracked categories (Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses.)
    • Year-to-date, sales were down 3.0% to $1.68 billion vs. the same two months in 2015.
  • Trade (consumer) books sales were $418.1 million in Feb. 2016, down 0.9% from $422.1 million in Feb. 2015. This includes Childrens/YA Books, Adult Books and Religious Books.
    • Adult Books had $281.5 million in sales in Feb. 2016, down 6.6% from $301.2 million in Feb. 2015.
    • Childrens/YA Books had $101.2 million in sales in Feb. 2016, up 17.0% from $86.5 million in Feb 2015.
    • Religious Presses had $35.4 million in sales, up by 3.2% from $34.3 million in Feb. 2015.
    • Year-to-date, trade sales are down 8.2% to $907.2 million vs. the same two months in 2015.

Format Trends for Trade

  • Trends appeared to continue from 2015. In Feb. 2016 vs. Feb. 2015:
    • Paperback books grew 9.8%
    • Downloaded audio grew 42.9%
    • Hardback books grew 4.6%
    • eBooks were down 18.7%

Educational Materials and Professional Books

  • Educational Materials had gains of 5.5% for K-12 Instructional Materials and 58.5% for Higher Education Course Materials, in Feb. 2016 vs. Feb. 2015. Importantly, education sales in Feb. are typically low, relative to the rest of the year.
  • Professional Publishing was down 19.0% in Feb. 2016 vs. Feb. 2015 which includes business, medical, law, scientific and technical books and journals.

image by Phil Roeder

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Purple lady26 July, 2016

    When the ebook is consistently priced higher than the currently available paper version I won’t purchase the ebook, so I am not surprised. I’ll either borrow it from the library or if it’s not available, I simply won’t read it. Paper books are allowed to be discounted and ebooks are not, so I don’t see this changing.

    1. Frank26 July, 2016

      This is exactly why I have purchased further ebooks now than in the past. I get mad when an ebook costs more than its paperback.

  2. Andrew26 July, 2016

    I wonder if this is for the market as a whole, or just the large publishing houses? They are clearly doing what they can to slow, limit and reduce ebook sales by charging more for them, but do they still represent ‘the market’? What about other publishers, and independent authors – are they seeing growth in sales as a group?

    1. Nate Hoffelder26 July, 2016

      Just the large publishing houses.

    2. Will Entrekin27 July, 2016

      “What about other publishers, and independent authors – are they seeing growth in sales as a group?”

      I’m pretty sure the Author Earnings reports published by Hugh Howey and Data Guy indicate so. Basically, the earnings and marketshare of the indie world are inversely proportional to those of all the reports from places like Nielsen and AAP. So whenever you see that publishers’ revenues are declining or ebooks sales are down in that world, both are generally improving in the indie world.

  3. Binko Barnes26 July, 2016

    People instinctively feel that ebooks should be considerably cheaper than physical books. There is minimal cost to edit, virtually no cost to manufacture, ship, sell or warehouse. Ebooks can’t be resold or lent to a friend. There is no assurance you will even retain the right to read them after the passage of time.

    If ebooks were sold for just a few bucks, did not have DRM and allowed you to sell or transfer the licence people would buy tons and tons of them. Instead, publishers, intent of protecting their legacy markets, are actively strangling the ebook market.

    1. author/reader26 July, 2016

      DRM is just a way to make it difficult for you to give a free copy of the book to someonne else (with no royalty to the author). Why do you thiink it’s all right to stiff the author like that?

      1. Hayden27 July, 2016

        I do it every time I buy a paperback. I share it with friends once I have finished reading it. Friends do the same for me and I have discovered new authors this way. Not anymore with ebooks though!

        Is the author being ‘stiffed’ or is this the way the industry has worked for the last few decades?

  4. Tom S26 July, 2016

    Perhaps some of this is due to adult coloring books, which reportedly sold 12 million copies in the last year. If average cost is $10, that is $120 million in sales, and I assume big publishers have a large stake in those, as it is nearly pure profit. They will contribute to print sales, but not eBook sales (there are many digital coloring book apps but these do not factor in to book publishing statistics).

  5. DavidW27 July, 2016

    This report that ebook revenue is down is not consistent with Author Earnings report: http://authorearnings.com/report/february-2016-author-earnings-report/

    They indicated that ebook revenue is UP, the exact opposite conclusion. Also that report is very detailed while this one is really not. All AAP are presenting are their conclusions and not the data.

    1. Fjtorres27 July, 2016

      Their data isn’t horribly bad. It is merely limited to a subset of tradpub. It is probably accurate as far as it goes. It just doesn’t cover vast swaths of the market.

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