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AAP Reports eBook Sales Down 1% in August, Down for the Year

The latestaap monthly sales figures from the American Association of Publishers are going to add grist to the mill for those who say that the ebook market is leveling off.

The AAP reported that the book market as a whole was up nearly 6% in August 2013 ($633.5 million from $598.4 million), and it was also down 4.8% for the January to August period ($4.26 billion from $4.47 billion).

The combined digital sales (audiobook and ebook) for the first 8 months of 2013 totaled $882.8 million, down 3.5% from $915 million during that period last year. In the adult segment, downloadable audiobooks were up 14.4% in the first 8 months of 2013 while ebooks increased by 4.8%. Religious ebooks were up 2.6%, while kid’s ebooks dropped by 40%.

The ebook segments are just beginning to get out of the shadow of last year’s sales, with YA ebook sales slowly recovering to where they were last year. Digital sales (ebook plus audiobook) for August 2013 alone totaled $144.4 million, up about one and a third percent from August 2013.

Update: Publisher’s Lunch has caught me in a math error. The August figures show that the total digital sales were down 1.7%, not up. (My mistake was that I accidentally swapped the August 2012 figure with the August 2013 figure, and thus the ratio was inverted.)

The YA ebook segment was down 7.6% ($13.3 million from $14.4 million), while religious ebooks were up 4.9% ($4.9 million from $4.7 million). Curiously enough, adult ebook sales broke with their previous trend of steady growth and took a dip in August; they were down 2.9% ($114.8 million from $118.2 million).

Adult audiobooks, on the other hand, were up 18.3% ($11.4 million from $9.6 million). Along with religious ebooks, this was one of only 2 digital segments that increased in August.

Like we have seen in previous reports, last year’s release of The Hunger Games movie resulted in a volume of ebook and paper book sales that could not be repeated in 2013. But the shadow also appears to be wearing thin, so with luck in the next few months we should have a better idea of whether the market is growing, shrinking, or holding steady.

Or rather we will know how well the 1195 publishers who share data with the AAP are doing; the above data does not reflect the entire market.

P.S. As always, here are the charts from the AAP.

aap january  to august 2012 2013 total figures

aap january  to august 2012 2013 segments

aap august 2012 2013 total figures

aap august 2012 2013 segments

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Publishers Lunch November 19, 2013 um 12:51 pm

You’ve gone astray somewhere. The AAP figures show ebook sales *declining* in August, albeit slightly. It’s right there in the charts you show ($114.8 adult + $13.3 children’s + $4.9 religious = $133 million for 8/13 — versus $118.2 adult + $14.4 children’s + $4.7 religious = $137.3 for 8/12).

Your "digital sales for August 2013" of $144.4 million appears to add in adult digital audio — which is different from ebooks. But even with digital audio, the 8/12 total is higher ($137.3 + $9.6 = $146.9).

Nate Hoffelder November 19, 2013 um 1:08 pm

That I did. Thanks for catching it.

fjtorres November 19, 2013 um 1:50 pm

The hidden assumption in these reports is the idea that the reporting publishers are typical and representative of the entire industry. Odds are they are not.
Especially since the BPHs all decided to release their fall tent pole releases almost at the same time. The perils of no longer being able to collude.

AnthonyA November 19, 2013 um 3:16 pm

I’m just wondering if publisher’s are starting to hear alarm bells yet?

I used to buy between 20 to 30 paper books a year – for 2013 I’ve bought 1 and regretted it.

But, I bought 37 ebooks from Amazon in 2013, all of them self published. I bought 12 ebooks in 2012 and most of those were traditionally published

Many of my friends who own Kindles only grab the freebies you can get on Amazon and other sites – they just don’t touch traditionally published stuff anymore.

If that is happening across the board, that’s bad news for publishers.

Nate Hoffelder November 19, 2013 um 10:04 pm

Given the way that the AAP figures are being framed in the dig pub press I don’t think legacy publishers have figured it out yet. They think the market is leveling off, not shifting elsewhere.

flyingtoastr November 19, 2013 um 3:47 pm

I’m glad to see you finally admitting that Hunger Games (and Fifty Shades, for that matter) caused anomalies in the book market. I still remember you screaming that BN was lying when they cited that as a reason for lower YOY sales.

Nate Hoffelder November 19, 2013 um 4:23 pm

One, I wasn’t screaming so please stop your FUD, and two, I acknowledged the effect of THG months and months ago. It’s just that when I wrote that bit about B&N I didn’t expect to see the effect of that movie continue past the first few months of the year.

To be completely accurate, I was proven wrong just over a week after I wrote about that B&N quarterly report. So it’s not like this is a sudden about face.

Caleb November 19, 2013 um 4:57 pm

Maybe it’s here and I am too lazy but how do ebook unit sales look YOY within the AAP data? Units reflect market growth or stagnation best when something is new like ebooks, although I understand dollars go in the bank. Just curious if you have it. Thanks.

Nate Hoffelder November 19, 2013 um 5:08 pm

They don’t offer the unit sales, so I don’t know.

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