Revenue at Simon & Schuster increased 2% in the third quarter, ended September 30, 2015, to $203 million (up from $199 million a year ago), parent company CBS reported. Operating income rose to $43 million, from $42 million. The quarter was the first period in 2015 in which S&S was able to increase sales over the comparable period in 2014. For the first nine months of 2015, sales at S&S were down 3%, to $547 million, but earnings were up 5%, to $80 million.
The sales gain was led by increases in the children's and audio departments, S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy told PW. The children's department benefited from a strong showing by the ninth book in the bestselling Dork Diaries series, as well as good performances by Michael Vey 5: Storm of Lightning and Click, Clack, Boo!.
Audio sales were driven by the continued strong demand for digital audiobooks. Reidy said sales of digital audio were up 40% in the first nine months of 2015.
Bestselling adult titles in the quarter included The Survivor by Vince Flynn and Kyle Mills; two books from the Threshold imprint, Plunder and Deceit by Mark R. Levin, and It Is about Islam by Glenn Beck; and this year's Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
The gain in digital audio helped to offset declines in e-book sales. In the quarter, e-book sales represented 20.4% of total revenue down from 25.1% in last year's third quarter, while all digital sales accounted for 24.8% in the most recent quarter compared to 28.3%. Reidy said she is not concerned yet about the drop in e-book sales, noting that part of the decline is due to product mix as well as fwere people buying e-reader devices for the first time. She said S&S analysis doesn't indicated that higher e-book prices are behind the e-book decline.
For the first nine months of the year, digital sales accounted for 26.2% of revenue, down slightly from 27.2% in the same period last year. E-books accounted for 21.8% of sales in 2015, down from 24.1%. Reidy said she thinks those percentages will hold for the remainder of the year.
Looking ahead, this week marks an important one for the publisher, as it sees the release of a number of S&S's 2015 titles, with books dropping by Stephen King, John Irving, Isabel Allende, Stan Lee, and Donald Trump.