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AAP: Publisher Revenue Rose by 4.6% in 2018

The Association of American Publishers has published its annual revenue report for the 1,375 publishers who submit their revenue data to the AAP. This info is not to be confused with sales data or the sum total of the US book market, although it will likely be misconstrued that way.

Publisher revenue rose $342 million last year, to $7.49 billion. While on the one hand 5% growth rate looks awesome, a closer look shows that most of that growth was due to increased sales of audiobooks and hardback books.

In 2018, publisher hardback book revenues grew 6.9%, adding $196.8 million in revenue, while audiobook revenues grew by 37.1%, adding $127.1 million in revenue compared to 2017.

press release:

Revenue for trade (consumer) book publishers was $7.49 billion in 2018, an increase of $341.5 million (+4.6%) compared to 2017, according to the StatShot Monthly report from the Association of American Publishers. Each of the trade book categories – Adult Books, Children’s/Young Adult and Religious Presses – saw revenue growth. Revenue for trade books includes sales to bookstores, wholesalers, direct to consumer, online retailers, etc.

Since 2013, downloaded audio has been the trade book format with the greatest percent growth. In 2018 it grew by +37.1%, adding $127.1 million in revenue compared to 2017. Hardback books had the most revenue gain from actual dollars, with +6.9% revenue growth adding $196.8 million in revenue in 2018.

Overall publisher revenue for all tracked categories (Trade, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses) in 2018 was relatively flat at $14.55 billion (-0.4%) with a decrease of $57.0 million compared to 2017.

Trade Publishing

Jan. to Dec: Trade Book Revenue (in millions)

Jan. – Dec. 2018

Jan. – Dec. 2017

Percent Change

Adult Fiction/Non-Fiction








Religious Presses








While all three categories of trade books saw increased revenue, the industry’s largest category – Adult Books – grew the most ($247.4 million) compared to 2017. Revenue for downloaded audio and hardback increased by double digits within the Adult Books category, but not every format benefitted from the category’s growth – mass market books and physical audiobooks saw declining revenue compared to 2017.

Both Childrens/Young Adult Books and Religious Presses bounced back from slight revenue declines in 2017, with $68.4 million (+3.3%) for the former and $25.7 million (+4.5%) for the latter in 2018 compared to 2017. Within Religious Presses, revenue for hardback books and eBooks increased while revenue for paperback books declined.

Jan. to Dec.: Total Trade Revenue by Format (in millions)

Jan. – Dec. 2018

Jan. – Dec. 2017

Percent Change





Paperback & Mass Market








Downloaded Audio




Physical Audio




Board Books








Print books and downloaded audiobooks experienced revenue growth in 2018, while eBooks declined slightly. This is the third consecutive year that audiobooks saw double-digit growth (+37.1%) and eBook revenue declined (-3.6%).

Education and Scholarly Publishing

Revenue for education and scholarly publishers declined in 2018 in all categories (Professional Books, PreK-12, University Presses, Higher Education.) This is a departure from 2017, when PreK-12 was the only category to decline.

Jan. to Dec: Education and Scholarly Publishing (in millions)

Jan. – Dec. 2018

Jan. – Dec. 2017

Percent Change

Higher Ed Course Materials




PreK-12 Instructional Materials




Professional Books




University Presses




Publisher net revenue is tracked monthly by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and includes revenue from about 1,375 publishers, with participation subject to change over time. The StatShot Annual, Higher Education Annual, and PreK-12 Annual reports for 2017 are available for purchase; additional information about them can be found here.

image by jrladia via Flckr

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Disgusting Dude February 12, 2019 um 7:08 pm

Translation: they sold less books.
Also, revenue grew by 5% at a time inflation is running at 3%.

In the meantime, Kindle Unlimited payout grew by 20% during 2018.
No causation implied.

Nate Hoffelder February 12, 2019 um 8:22 pm


Disgusting Dude February 13, 2019 um 12:13 am

That too.

Thomas Porcello February 13, 2019 um 1:41 pm

Did the report provide unit sales? If not, then no one can conclude fewer ebooks were sold. Customers may have purchased lower cost books or waited for sales.

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