Final industry estimates from the Association of American Publishers show that sales of religious books fell 6% in 2022 from 2021, dropping to $1.27 billion last year from $1.35 billion in 2021.
Declines in two formats in particular were behind the drop. Sales of hardcovers, by far the biggest-selling format, fell 9.5%, to $755 million, and its share of sales fell to 59.4% from 61.7% in 2021. Sales of digital audiobooks tumbled 42.3% from 2021 when sales hit a record high of $106.2 million. The $61.2 million in digital audiobook sales last year was not down by that much from typical annual sales. The format accounted for 4.8% of 2022 category sales, down from 7.9% in 2021.
While hardcover sales fell, trade paperback saw sales increase 22.3%, to $217.8 million and its share of revenue rose to 17.1% from 13.2% in 2021. E-book sales fell 11.8%, to $79.5 million and its share of sales dropped from 6.7% of revenue in 2021 to 6.2% last year, its lowest share in the five-year period measured by AAP.
In its report, AAP found total publishing industry sales fell 2.6%, to $28.10 billion. The K-12 educational materials segment was the only category where revenue was over 2021, jumping 16.6% in 2022, to $5.61 billion. On the trade side, adult sales fell 7.1% from 2021, to $11.22 billion, as a 0.6% increase in fiction was offset by a 13.2% drop in adult nonfiction sales. Total children’s/young adult sales fell 6.5%, from $5.21 billion in 2021 to $4.87 billion last year. Similar to the adult category, fiction (down 6.3%) did better than nonfiction (where sales fell 7.2%).
The AAP also drew a comparison between 2022 and 2019, the last year of sales before the pandemic, and noted that while revenue fell last year, industry sales still remained 6% higher than the $25.87 billion total recorded in 2019. In the religious category, sales in 2019 were $1.25 billion, 2% below 2022.
AAP’s final industry sales numbers are derived by combining the input from 2,252 publishers and distributors who directly reported a total of $16.15 billion in revenue in 2022, with $11.95 billion in estimated revenue for non-reporting publishers, a figure developed through market modeling by AAP’s statistics partner, Management Practice, Inc.