March 18, 2018

Ebooks, Online Drive Trade Sales Growth

The BookStats 2013 survey, co-produced by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), released some provisional numbers on May 15. (A few statistics are being recalculated, but won’t impact the trend). BookStats found that trade publishing overall saw significant growth since 2011, despite the closures of many brick-and-mortar stores during the same period. Not surprisingly, publishers’ revenue from brick and mortar retail fell 7 percent, but more than made up the ground online, growing 21 percent. Overall, trade net revenue rose 6.9 percent to just over $15 billion in 2012. The number of books sold also grew, by 8.1 percent, to $2.291 billion.

Ebooks make up a fifth of the trade market, according to BookStats, and were one of the growth drivers, growing by nearly half (44 percent) to over $3 billion in net revenue and grew almost as much in number of titles sold (42.8 percent). Adult Fiction is still the big fish in the ebook pond, growing almost 42 percent since 2011 to about $1.3 billion. Children’s and YA, though smaller to start with, experienced rapid growth, more than 117 percent, to $469 million.

Overall Trade eBook Growth

Year Net revenue ($) Net units
2008 $63.896 Million 10.032 Million
2009 $291.019 Million 36.192 Million
2010 $868.756 Million 124.789 Million
2011 $2.109 Billion 320.006 Million
2012 $3.042 Billion 457.093 Million

Source: BookStats

Downloaded audiobooks also saw healthy double digit growth, with a 21.8 percent rise in revenue and 24.4 percent in units.

While ebooks do cannibalize print sales, they are mostly coming out of mass market paperbacks: hardcovers and trade paperbacks “continued to hold steady,” the survey found, even making tiny gains (1.3 percent and 0.4 percent respectively.)

Folding educational, professional, and scholarly publishing into the equation, however, dulls the outlook. The publishing industry as a whole saw net revenue drop slightly (by less than one percent) to $27.124 billion since 2011, despite mild growth, 5.7 percent, in net units sold. According to BookStats, the K-12 education publishing sector was the key factor in the decline, as the recession “significantly affected states’ and municipalities’ buying decisions.”

While the BookStats interactive data dashboard is available this week, the full survey will become available in June.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.