The Association of American Publishers released its final estimates of industry sales in 2019 this morning. According to AAP, total sales increased 1.1% over 2018, to $25.93 billion. The AAP estimated that unit sales grew at a slightly faster rate than dollar revenue, with units up 2%, to 2.86 billion.
The increase was led by a 20.4% jump in sales in the preK-12 category, where sales were $4.07 billion. In the trade category, the largest publishing segment, sales inched ahead 0.4%, to $16.23 billion. Among the other major segments, sales in higher education category fell 10.9%, to $3.23 billion, and sales in the professional segment declined 3.7%, to $2.08 billion. Sales of university press titles rose 1.1%, to $260 million.
Among the highlights pointed to by AAP were total online sales, which rose 1.7% in 2019, to $8.22 billion. Online sales grew nearly 20% over the last five years, while sales through physical retail fell 35.9% over the same period. In 2019, sales through physical retail dropped 9.2%, to $5.86 billion.
Print remained the biggest format, particularly for trade publishers. Overall, only 47.6% of all revenue came from the four major print formats—hardcover, board book, trade paperback, and mass market paperback—but print accounted for 74.7% of trade sales.
The performance of the two major digital formats, e-books and downloaded audio, continued to move in opposite ways. The AAP found that total e-book revenue fell 4.9% in 2019, to $1.94 billion, and is down 30.8% since 2015. E-book unit sales fell 2.6% in 2019 compared to 2018. On the plus side, sales of downloaded audio rose 15.9% last year, to $1.31 billion. Between 2015 and 2019, sales of the format jumped almost 144%.
The AAP arrives at its estimates by combining annual data submitted by publishers and distributors along with market modeling. Sales supplied by reporting publishers showed a 0.6% in increase in dollar sales in 2019 over 2018.