Led by a 44.9% increase in the stock price of Amazon, the Publishers Weekly Stock Index jumped 23.5% in 2012, easily beating the 7.3% gain posted by the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the year. Even excluding Amazon’s outsized performance, the PWSI was still up 10.5% in 2012, as five other companies saw their share prices rise by more than 20% in the year.

But it was Amazon that drew the most attention from investors as its share price soared $77.77 over the close of 2011. While some analysts and investors have criticized the company for its heavy investments and thin margins, more appear to believe Amazon is on the way to becoming the dominant online retailer for years to come, not only in the sale of physical goods but of digital content as well.

The company that had the second largest percentage gain last year couldn’t be more different from Amazon; Hastings Entertainment generates nearly all of its sales from its stores and has only a toehold in the sale of digital content. Still, the company showed some signs of improvement over 2011 and continued to add a wider assortment of products to its inventory mix.

Retailers in general performed better than their printer counterparts in the traditional book supply chain. Books-A-Million’s share price rose 9.5% last year, while Barnes & Noble’s share price finished another volatile year with its price up 4.2%, as investors continue to debate whether B&N will be able to exploit its position as the last major outlet for the sale of print books and as a significant player in the sale of digital content or if it will be overwhelmed by such companies as Apple, Google, and Amazon. Investors appear to have reached their conclusions about the long-term financial prospects for printers, however. Printing giant Donnelley had the largest share drop on the PWSI in 2012, and the company has lost a little less than half its value since the end of 2010. Courier Corp.’s stock price did a little better, but was still down 9.3% in 2012 following a 24.2% decline in 2011.

Stock Watch, 2012
Company Dec. 30, 2011 Dec. 31, 2012 % Change
Amazon 173.10 250.87 44.9%
Hastings Entertainment 1.60 2.20 37.5
CBS 27.14 36.85 35.8
Walt Disney Co. 37.50 49.79 32.8
Reed Elsevier 32.36 42.04 29.9
McGraw-Hill Cos. 44.97 54.67 21.6
Books-A-Million 2.43 2.66 9.5
Barnes & Noble 14.48 15.09 4.2
Pearson 18.87 19.54 3.5
Scholastic 29.97 29.56 -1.4
Courier Corp. 11.75 10.66 -9.3
John Wiley 44.40 38.93 -12.3
Educational Dev. Corp. 5.01 3.81 -23.9
R.R. Donnelley 14.43 8.99 -37.7
PW Stock Index 458.01 565.66 23.5%
Dow Jones Average 12,217.56 13,104.14 7.3