Industry sales slipped 1.6% in 2018, compared to 2017, dropping to $25.82 billon, according to final figures released by the Association of American Publishers in its StatShot Annual Report. Units dipped 0.6%.
The trade segments did relatively well, though, with the industry decline coming from the professional segment (down 8.5%), higher education (down 7.3%), and pre-K–12 instruction materials (down 4.4%). Trade sales rose 1.5%, to $16.19 billion.
AAP puts religious publishing in the trade segment, and religious books had the largest gain of any category in the year; sales in the segment were up 14.7% over 2017, to $1.22 billion. Elsewhere in trade, sales in the children’s/young adult nonfiction category rose 11.9%, while sales in children’s/YA fiction increased 1.6%. In the adult trade segments, the AAP reported that fiction sales inched ahead 0.4%, but nonfiction fell 1.1%, to $6.1 billion. The decline in adult nonfiction came despite a big year for political books. AAP found that, while sales of adult nonfiction rose 5.8% in hardcover, they fell in all other formats.
The fastest-growing format in the trade group in 2018 was downloadable audio, where sales jumped 28.7%, to $1.1 billion. Among trade print segments, hardcover sales rose 3.3%, while board book sales increased 3.1% over 2017. Sales of mass market paperbacks continued their steady decline in 2018, falling 25.9% from 2017 and generating $530 million in sales. E-books did fairly well in the trade market; the 2% drop in sales in 2018 compared to 2017 was the slowest decline since e-book sales started falling in 2015. E-book trade sales last year were $2 billion. E-books remained strongest in adult fiction, where they accounted for 28% of segment sales, ahead of trade paperbacks, which accounted for 25.4% of adult fiction revenue. In comparison, e-books represented only 8.7% of adult nonfiction sales.
Looking at sales by channel, trade books’ online retail revenue grew 7.1% in 2018, to $6.74 billion. This offset a 3.1% fall in sales through physical retail, which dropped to $3.84 billion. Revenue from sales via the intermediary channel (primarily wholesalers and distributors) declined 1% in 2018. Physical retail and intermediary now each represent 23.7% of the trade market, the AAP reported.
In looking at trends over a five-year period, total industry sales in 2018 were down 7.7% from 2014, when revenue was $27.96 billion. Total trade sales rose 4.9% between 2014 and 2018, led by a 38.5% increase in sales in the children’s/YA nonfiction category and a 22.8% gain in adult nonfiction. Sales in the higher education segment dropped 24% between 2014 and 2018, while K–12 sales declined 19% over the same period.
Unlike its monthly StatShot reports, the StatShot Annual combines sales submitted by publishers with estimates for publishers who do not participate directly in data collection. These estimates are based on sales data included in company financial reports, trade and news media reporting, government filings, press releases, third party research services, and private sources.