The decline in publishing sales due to the impact of Covid-19 began to appear in some, but not all, industry segments in March. The 1,361 publishers who report to the AAP's StatShot program saw a 8.4% decline in sales in March compared to a year ago.
While the adult books and children/young adult categories had gains of 3.5% and 0.9%, respectively, all other categories had sales declines. The K-12 instructional materials segment had the largest decline, with sales falling 50.6% as many schools closed during the month. Sales in the professional books and university presses categories both had declines of just over 21%. Sales in the religious presses category fell 15.6%, and dropped 8.5% in the higher educational course materials category.
In the adult trade segment, hardcover sales were solid, up 6.8% in March. The much smaller mass market paperback format saw sales shoot up 72.3%, while trade paperback sales dipped 1.8%. Downloadable audio sales rose 12.9% over March 2019. E-book sales did not show any signs of increasing in March. Sales from reporting publishers were down 7.1% in the month.
In children/young adult, sales of paperback books rose 7.5% in the month, offsetting a 7.5% decline of hardcovers. Board book sales rose 9.1%. Digital sales had strong gains, with downloadable audio revenue up 46.6% in March and e-book sales ahead 22%.
For the first quarter of 2020, industry sales inched up 0.3% over the comparable period in 2019. The children/young adult segment sales rose 4.4%, while sales of adult tiles increased 3.3%. The K-12 segment had the largest decline, with sales falling 24%.