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New AAP Stats Show that Reports of the Demise of Paperbacks Were Greatly Exaggerated

aap The Association of American Publishers announced today that the US ebook market, or rather the segment tracked by AAP member publishers, saw moderate growth in the first 8 months of 2014.

Trade revenues for the 1,209 publishers who submit data to the AAP were up 4.4% so far this year ($4.2 billion to $4.3 billion), and when all of the revenue data, including PSP, Pre K-12 Instructional materials, and higher ed, the total revenues grew by 5.7%.

The adult segment dropped by a couple percent, while the YA segment increased by 25% (from $903 million to $1.1 billion). The religious press segment was also up 2%.

In terms of formats, downloaded audiobooks continued to be the best performer, growing by 27.7% growth over the same period in 2013. eBook revenues grew by 6% (from $1.0 billion to $1.1 billion). Revenues from paperback sales were up 5.3% (from $1.26 billion to $1.32 billion), while hard back sales increased by 1.3%.

All in all, there is very little change from the data released last month, which brings me to my title.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard a couple people repeat the "ebooks are killing paperbacks" meme. While that appeared to be true in past years, I seriously do not think that is the case any more. Paperback sales fluctuate, and ebook sales are slowly growing, but the gross cannibalization is no longer taking place.

eBooks might replace paperbacks in the long run, but the change is occurring so slowly that it’s impossible to suggest the possibility without better long term data.

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Timothy Wilhoit November 17, 2014 um 11:29 am

I’ve never felt trade paper was suffering a serious decline due to ebooks but I suspect the mass market paperbacks have taken a serious drubbing over the last few years. Do the AAP numbers for trade paper have the MMPBs lumped together with trade paperbacks or don’t they cover them at all?

Eric Muller November 17, 2014 um 1:33 pm

1066+1351+1328 = 3745. What is the format of the missing 4347-3745 = 602 millions?

Nate Hoffelder November 17, 2014 um 1:40 pm

Audiobooks, for one. I’m not sure about the rest.

Fbone November 17, 2014 um 1:56 pm

Educational material like textbooks?

puzzled November 17, 2014 um 3:50 pm

One of the problems with comparing the sales of eBooks and pBooks is that they can have separate universes.

eBooks can comprise books that are out-of-print, while pBooks, by definition, are in-print books.

So, there is the potential that a big chunk of eBook sales are not competing at all with pBooks, other than as a commodity (buying an older, out of print eBook vs a different new pBook).

Ebook Bargains UK November 18, 2014 um 6:04 am

The "death of print" meme so favoured by the Indie Old Guard was never a runner.

Not that that stopped the tired old cliches about publishers rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, that were repeated ad nauseum from 2009 until about 2013, when reality finally dawned that publishers make more money from digital, not less.

Bottom line is that while print will eventually give way to digital in some distant future, there will be many, many years of co-existence ahead. And that means many, many years of trad publishers raking in money from the print-reading sector that most indies refuse to consider seriously, while also raking in even more money from digital.

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