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 PreK-12 instruction materials (down 4.4%).
AAP puts religious publishing in the trade segment, and religious books had the largest gain in the year; sales in the category were up 14.7% over 2017, to $1.22 billion. 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 also found that, while sales of adult nonfiction rose in hardcover, they fell in all other formats. In e-books, sales were down 5.2% from 2017.
Overall, however, e-books did fairly well in the trade market; the 2.0% decline in sales in 2018 compared to 2017 was the slowest decline since e-book sales started falling in 2015. Downloadable audio had the largest gain in the year, with sales in the trade jumping 28.7%, to $1.13 billion. (E-book trade sales last year were $2.0 billion). The format that continued a precipitous decline was mass market paperback, where sales tumbled 25.9% and generated only $530 million.
For 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 1.0% in 2018. Physical retail and intermediary now each represent 23.7% of the trade market, the AAP reported.
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.