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Publisher eBook Revenues Fell 3% in First Four Months of 2018

Publisher ebook revenue continued to decline in the first third of this year, while trade revenues fluctuated upwards, increasing by 7.3% over the same period in 2017.

Same song, different verse.

press release:

Publishers’ revenue increased by $172.8 million (+5.5%) for the first four months of 2018 (Jan – April) compared to the same period in 2017. Publisher revenue in April 2018 was up by 4.4% over April 2017. These revenues from AAP’s StatShot Monthly Report, which tracks publisher revenue comparatively each month, represent all tracked categories (Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses).

Trade books had the greatest gains in April 2018. Compared to April 2017, revenue was up by 12.2% for Adult Books, 8.3% for Children’s/Young Adult, and 9.8% for Religious Presses. Overall, Trade was up 11.1% in April. Looking at the year-to-date (Jan – April), revenue for Trade was up 7.3% compared to the same time in 2017.

January to April: Trade Book Revenue (in millions)


Jan. – April 2018

Jan. – April 2017

Percent Change

Adult Fiction/Non-Fiction








Religious Presses








Trade Book Formats

Revenue for all print formats was up in April 2018, compared to April 2017. For the year-to-date, print formats comprised $1.6 billion of revenue, up 7.4% from the same timeframe in 2017. Downloaded audio continued its significant growth and revenue for eBooks declined slightly.

Total Trade Net Revenue by Format (in millions)


Jan. – April 2018

Jan. – April 2017

Percent Change




Paperback & Mass Market








Downloaded Audio




Physical Audio




Board Books








January to April 2018: Education and Scholarly Publishing (in millions)


Jan. – April 2018

Jan. – April 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 1,100 publishers, with participation subject to change over time. AAP also measures the revenue of the overall publishing industry with AAP’s StatShot Annual Report, which was released July 20, 2018 and can be purchased here.



image by pheezy via Flickr

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Allen F July 28, 2018 um 4:18 pm

Gee, maybe overpricing electronic bits costs sales – who knew (other than Amazon of course …)

Steve July 28, 2018 um 10:21 pm

Devil’s advocate: BigPub believes that e-book sales come at the expense of paper sales. As long as they can see a pattern where modest declines in e-book revenues are more than offset by increases in hardback and paperback revenues, they will continue to believe that e-book vs. paper is a zero-sum game. They will then be happy to continue using pricing to drive people towards paper.

I don’t say that they are right, but if you start from that belief then their pricing strategy makes sense.

Disgusting Dude July 29, 2018 um 6:33 pm

That would indeed make a smidgen of sense…if tbe average print book price remained the same. But it isn’t. The average sale price of their dead tree pulp editions is steadily moving up and that is what is driving the reported print gains (at Amazon and Amazon only).

For the bulk of the decade those same publishers have been phasing out mass market paperback as a format for original content and substituting the more expensive hardcovers and trade paperbacks. As a result, their reportable income remains flat or inches higher while the number of books they sell drops steadily.

Their revenues may not show much of a decline but their unit share has been taking a beating. The reads they are losing are going to other tradpubs, AmazonPublishing, and Indie, Inc.

In pretty much every consumer-focused business, steady market share losses point to eventual revenue collapses. In this case all it would take would be the retirement of a couple of the aging "big name" authors, most of which are boomers and early Gen-Xers.

Look at who saved the penguin’s bacon as reported by Pearson:

Patterson and Clinton, 71; Child, 63; and the ghost of Dr Seuss.

Yeah, that looks sustainable for decades to come.

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