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AAP Reports Publisher eBook Revenues Down in First Half of 2017

Judging by the latest revenue report from the Association of American Publishers, last month’s report of a jump in ebook sales was exactly what it looked like: an anomaly.

Total publishers’ revenues were up by $195.9 million (3.5%) for the first half of 2017, to $5.72 billion. Trade revenues rose by 3%, to $3.27 billion, largely as a result of revenues from hardback and downloadable audiobook sales.

Both paperback and ebook revenues were down in the first half of the year, with ebook revenues dropping $26.8 million (4.6%), to $555.7 million.

press release

Publishers’ revenues (sales to bookstores, wholesalers, direct to consumer, online retailers, etc.) were $5.72 billion – up by $195.9 million (3.5%) for the first half of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Tracked categories include: Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses.

Revenue for Trade Books grew by 3.0%, with revenue increases in both Adult Books and Childrens/YA books over 2016.

“What a testament to the importance of the publishing industry,” said Maria A. Pallante, President and CEO, Association of American Publishers. “Whatever the category, format or distribution platform, books remain a constant in the marketplace and in our lives.”

Trade Books

  • By Category: In the first half of 2017, compared to the first half of 2016, trade sales were $3.27 billion – up by $95.8 million (3.0%)
    • Adult Books had $2.22 billion in sales, up $66.7 million (3.1%)
    • Childrens/YA Books had $852.4 million in sales, up $36.8 million (4.5%)
    • Religious Presses had $197.0 million in sales, down by $7.7 million (-3.8%)
  • By Format: In the first half of 2017 vs. 2016
    • Paperback/Mass Market books had $1.27 billion in sales, down $23.6 million (-1.8%)
    • Hardback books had $1.11 billion in sales, up $98.7 million (9.7%)
    • eBooks had $555.7 million in sales, down $26.8 million (-4.6%)
    • Downloaded audio had $157.7 million in sales, up $38.2 million (32.0%)
    • Other formats (including board books, physical audio) had $181.8 millionin sales, up $9.4 million (5.4%)

Below is a chart that shows the market share of various Trade Book formats for the first half of the year from the past six years. Print books – including paperback, mass market and hardback – account for more than 70% of publisher revenue of trade books. Audiobooks more than doubled their share since 2011.

Educational Materials and Professional Books

  • Educational Materials: In the first half of 2017, compared to the first half of 2016
    • PreK-12 Instructional Materials had revenues of $1.19 billion, flat at +0.1%
    • Higher Education Course Materials had revenues of $941.8 million, up by 11.2%
  • Professional Books and University Presses: In the first half of 2017, compared to the first half of 2016
    • Professional Books had revenues of $273.2 million, up 0.7%. These categories include business, medical, law, scientific and technical books.
    • University presses had revenues of $24.6 million, up 2.5%

About StatShot

Publisher net revenue is tracked monthly by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and includes sales data from more than 1,200 publishers (#AAPStats). Figures represent publishers’ net revenue for the U.S. (i.e. what publishers sell to bookstores, direct to consumer, online venues, etc.), and are not retailer/consumer sales figures.

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randy lea October 26, 2017 um 12:08 pm

The numbers show that Ebook sales for the big guys fell, while audiobooks increased a lot. I wonder if that the switch from consumers away from tablets to larger cell phones means that consumers are less inclined to read expensive ebooks on phones, but are switching to audiobooks?

DaveMich October 26, 2017 um 1:31 pm

Based on my limited personal experience, audiobooks are still in the 'discovery' phase of adoption.

Ed Bear October 26, 2017 um 2:42 pm

The numbers show the big guys, which says nothing about how their "overprice the eBooks to discourage the business" tactics are faring in a world stuffed with indies.

Nate Hoffelder October 26, 2017 um 2:43 pm


Data Guy October 26, 2017 um 5:54 pm

The AAP diligently reports the sales of their participating publishers, which have indeed declined. But when you instead look at data on the whole ebook market, and count sales from all types of publishers, three things stand out:
1) The AAP’s reporting publishers represent less than 63% of the dollars and only 37% of US ebook units sold so far in 2017.
2) The rest of the non-AAP market has grown more than enough to make up for the AAP’s shrinking ebook sales.
3) What the AAP is reporting here is mainly outbound AAP market-share transfer.

When you only see half the market, you miss a lot.

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