Skip to main content

AAP Reports eBook Revenues Down 12.3% in First Ten Months of 2015

4486206221_28abf74675_b The Association of American Publishers released its monthly stats report on Wednesday and the news was about what you would expect.

Total trade revenues were up 2.5% for the month and half a percent for the year so far. Both paperbacks and audiobooks were up significantly, but ebook revenues were down 12.3% for the ten month period.

This more or less matches what we seen in the past several monthly reports, and it helps explain why publishers are now blaming the return of agency on Amazon rather than their own business decisions.

Press release:

aap logoPublishers’ book sales for trade (consumer) books from Jan. to Oct. were up 0.5% compared to the same timeframe in 2014. Overall publisher revenue for the 10-month period was $13.2 billion, down 2.8%. These numbers include sales for all tracked categories (Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, K-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses). Publishers net revenue is tracked monthly by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and includes sales data from more than 1,200 publishers (#AAPStats).


Trade book revenues were up 2.5% in Oct. 2015 compared to Oct. 2014.

In a year where Adult Books have shown growth and Childrens/YA hasn’t fared as well, Oct. was an unusual month; Adult Books were down 0.4% and Childrens /YA Books were up 8.1% compared to Oct. 2014. The year-to-date figures, through Oct. 2015 show growth of Adult Books by 2.6% and a decline in Childrens/YA of 5.3%

Religious Presses had 11.0% growth in Oct., compared to Oct. 2014; even with that bump, sales are flat year-to-date compared to 2014.

Trade Formats:

Downloaded audio and paperback remain the formats with the most growth. Downloaded audio increased 38.1% through Oct. 2015 vs the same timeframe in 2014. Paperback Books showed growth in all trade categories, and is up 12.4% year-to-date compared to 2014.

eBooks remain down at 12.3% compared to the same 10 months in 2014. The bulk of the decline comes from the Children/YA category, which is down 44.7%, whereas Adult  eBooks are down 6.5% year- to-date.

Though Hardback Books were up for the month in both Childrens/YA (12.5%) and Adult Books(4.3%) categories, they remain down 3.6% year-to-date compared to 2014.

Educational Materials:

Revenues for PreK-12 instructional materials were down by 4.7% and Higher Education course materials were down 6.7% through Oct. compared to the same timeframe in 2014.

Professional and Scholarly Publishing:

Sales for Professional Publishing, which includes business, medical, law, scientific and technical books and journals, were down 2.1% for the year-to-date. University Presses were down 2.9% year-over-year compared to the same ten months in 2014.

image by zigazou76

Similar Articles


Will O’Neil March 2, 2016 um 10:46 pm

I’m sure we can all agree that it’s terribly mean and bad of Amazon to leave the pricing decisions up to the poor, hapless publishers. Should it somehow happen, just by chance, that the publishers have some interest in increasing their revenues Amazon has a statistical algorithm for estimating the what any given price would do to sales.

Mark Williams – the International Indie Author March 3, 2016 um 3:04 am

"…it helps explain why publishers are now blaming the return of agency on Amazon rather than their own business decisions."

Can you identify any publishers actually saying this?

Your link goes to a speculative post by Shatzkin which in turn attributes the claim to an unnamed literary agent.

The anonymous literary agent may well be entirely correct, and Shatzkin’s conclusions may be spot on.

But if this were something that didn’t suit the indie agenda such unsubstantiated claims would not be being reported as fact and Shatzkin’s conclusions would be mercilessly ripped apart for being based on an unnamed literary agent’s opinions.

Nate Hoffelder March 3, 2016 um 6:31 am

I was really just joking.

Mackay Bell March 3, 2016 um 3:39 pm

I got that it was a joke.

But also, Shatzkin has a very good history of testing the waters for the traditional publishers talking points. This dates back from as far as I’ve been aware of him. He was dismissive of self-publishing as an irrelevant fad back when that was what the traditional world was saying (around 2010). He hinted that self-publishers were destroying their chances at a traditional publishing contract back when that was in vogue (around 2012?). He pontificated that cheap self-publishing prices would lead to everything being free back when that was popular. Then that self-publishing numbers were inflated. Then that big publishing would simply buy out the best indy writers, skimming off the creme from the top. Then switched to the idea that being a hybrid author was a good idea (in hopes that indy writers would at least consider traditional publishers). Etc., etc.

So the fact that he’s floating this "it’s was Amazon’s fault" line about agency does seem to be a good prediction of what the new PR spin is going to be with the NY Literary crowd/Big 5.

Traditionally published writers have to be screaming about falling ebook sales. Their agents and editors need to point the finger at someone other than the establishment.

The other thing that is important to understand about the traditional publishing world is they are all about spin. They’ve been constantly spinning what writers are important, what books are important, what the trends are, etc. often against the real facts. That spin monster needs to be feed and this looks like the new burger.

Nate Hoffelder March 3, 2016 um 7:40 pm

You have a good point.

Will Entrekin March 3, 2016 um 8:16 am

You know, usually when I see these reports, I’m suspicious of the findings. Bowker sees ISBNs, so it doesn’t see a great swath of the market that just continues to grow, and AAP, if I’m not mistaken, is mostly self-reported, by publishers asked to report.

For about the first time, I’m less suspicious. I totally believe that revenues among these publishers would be down, and specifically ebook revenue. I think it likely actually does come down to Amazon — but not because of agency.

This is where we start seeing indie authors getting greater and greater market share. The AAP report might indicate self-reported publishers revenues are down, but it’s likely worth checking against an Author Earnings report. And I know the claims made against that effort, but I think it’s worth something. There likely are problems with it, but I think its problems are lesser than those with, say, Bowker.

fjtorres March 3, 2016 um 10:34 am

I believe DataGuy does crosscheck with the AAP numbers, treating them as a subset of full market. They appear to be accurate enough to be representative of BPH trends.

Frank March 3, 2016 um 9:00 am

Publishers need to lower ebook prices if they want more sales. I am sure the average ebook price was higher is 2015 compared to 2014.

fjtorres March 3, 2016 um 10:38 am

More (unit) sales is pretty far down their list of priorities.
Producing nominal dollar gains in each quarterly financial report is job one.
(If they don’t the pink slips will fly.)

MKS March 3, 2016 um 10:49 am

The growth in downloadable audio is very interesting. How much of that is due to Amazon? Who else even sells downloadable audio? Who controls the pricing of audio? Since this is expressed as a percentage, does it represent significant unit sales numbers or is a best-seller responsible? Do higher e-book prices drive consumers to audio as a substitute format to be consumed on the same hardware base (phones)?

William Ockham March 3, 2016 um 11:58 am

You missed the headline. Year over Year comparison between October 2014 and October 2015 for ebooks: Down 22%

Nate Hoffelder March 3, 2016 um 12:06 pm

That wasn’t in the public data. PubLunch pays for access that I don’t have becasue i can’t afford it.

NYTimes: B&N isn't Going Away 'Cuz eBooks Are Declining and Paperbacks are Making a Comeback | The Digital Reader March 5, 2016 um 8:57 pm

[…] the first 10 months of 2015, according to data gathered by the Association of American […]

Write a Comment