Total book industry sales fell to $27.12 billion in 2012, down by just under 1% from the prior year. The change was due mainly to a decline in sales in the k-12 segment, which was hurt by weak state and local budgets that limited textbook purchases, according to figures released last week by BookStats, the statistics program run by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. The trade segment, on the other hand, saw a 6.9% sales increase last year, to $15.05 billion, with units up 8.1% over 2011.

The growth in the trade segment was, of course, led by e-book sales, which rose 44.2% to $3.04 billion, while units increased 42.8% to 457.1 million. E-books accounted for 20% of trade sales as measured by BookStats last year. Print sales were basically flat in the year, at $12 billion. In spite of the strong results, e-book sales grew less in 2012 than they have in any year since the format became a meaningful part of the book industry in 2008. This slowdown was not unexpected, given how small sales figures for e-books were in the first few years. It was surprising, however, that the e-book sales increase in 2012—about $933 million—was below the $1.24 billion sales increase recorded in 2011. A lower growth rate in unit sales and reduced prices were the main factors behind the slower growth in 2012.

On the print side, sales of hardcovers rose 1.3% in the year, to $5.06 billion, and trade paperback sales increased slightly, by 0.4%, to $4.96 billion. Sales of mass market paperbacks fell. Sales of downloadable audio rose 21.8% in 2012, to $240.7 million, but there was no data on the performance of physical audio formats.

The BookStats figures also show the importance adult fiction has played in the growth of e-books, with sales in that segment up to $1.8 billion in 2012, an increase of 41.8% over 2011. Sales in the children’s/young adult segment had the fastest gain in the year, up 117% to $469.1 million. And sales of adult nonfiction grew to $592.2 million, a 22.3% increase.

The BookStats figures also confirmed the growing importance of online retailers to book sales, as already indicated by data released by Bowker Market Research last week. According to BookStats, sales through online retailers rose 21.3% in 2012, to $6.93 billion, while sales via bricks-and-mortar outlets fell 7%, to $7.47 billion. The collapse of Borders in 2011 and the increase in print and e-book sales online are two of the major factors behind the shift.

AAP/BISG will release the full BookStats report in June, while the interactive data dashboard will be live sometime this week.

BookStats Highlights

(in millions)

Industry Sales
2011 2012 % Change
$27.363 $27.124 -0.9%
Total Trade Sales
2011 2012 % Change
$14.080 $15.049 6.9%
Total Trade Unit Sales
2011 2012 % Change
$2.120 $2.291 8.1%
E-book Trade Sales
2011 2012 % Change
$2.109 $3.042 44.2%
E-book Trade Unit Sales
2011 2012 % Change
$320.0 $457.1 42.8%
Total Print Trade Sales
2011 2012 % Change
$11.971 $12.007