Sales of print books fell 18.6% in the first nine months of 2011 in the major trade categories, according to figures reported to the Association of American Publishers. And although e-book sales jumped in the nine months—ahead 137.9% at the 15 reporting houses—the gain was not enough to offset the declines in the print segments. As a result, combined print and e-book sales fell 5.7% in the January–September period at the companies that take part in the AAP monthly survey.

The decline, however, was less than the 8.6% overall drop reported at the end of the first half of 2011, and the improvement was due to a less severe decline in print sales in the third quarter, while sales gains of e-books moderated slightly. In September, for example, sales at 11 children’s/YA hardcover publishers rose 2.1%, while adult trade paperback sales from 17 houses were flat in the month. The most alarming result came in the mass market paperback category where September sales from the seven reporting publishers plunged 54.3%, and the segment was off 33.3% for the first nine months of the year. Its sales of $339.4 million (which includes results from almost all of the major mass market publishers) was well less than half that of e-book sales in the period.

In audio, the trend followed the same pattern as for books; sales of physical audio fell 1.7% in September and 12.3% for the nine-month period at 13 reporting companies, while sales of digital downloads increased only 0.4% in September, but were up 28.8% for the nine months. Sales of print and e-books from 22 reporting religion publishers rose 6.6% in the nine-month period despite falling 6.3% in September.

AAP Nine-Month Trade Sales 2010–2011 ($ in millions)

category 2010 2011 % Change
Adult Hardcover (14)* $965.5 $791.7 -18.0%
Adult Paperback (17) 1,058.4 884.5 -16.4
Mass Market (7) 508.6 339.4 -33.3
Children’s/YA Hardcover (11) 471.7 417.1 -11.6
Children’s/YA Paperback (10) 407.3 344.6 -15.4
Total Print $3,411.5 $2,777.3 -18.6%
E-book (15) 305.9 727.7 137.9
Combined $3,717.4 $3,505.0 -5.7%