A solid gain in sales of higher education course materials helped to increase revenue 1.2% in the first half of 2023 over the comparable period in 2022 at the 1,238 publishers that report to AAP’s StatShot program. Higher ed sales rose 10.2% in the period, while sales of adult books increased 1.6% and university press sales were up 4.1%.
Those increases offset declines in religious presses, where sales dropped 1.2%; professional books, which had a 3.2% decline; and the segment with the largest decline, children’s/young adult books, which saw sales fall 6.3% in the six-month period.
The decline in the children’s/YA segment countered the small increase of adult books, leaving total trade sales down about 1% in the first half of the year. That figure is fairly consistent with the report earlier this year from Circana BookScan, which found that unit sales of print books fell 2.7% in the first six months of 2023. Bookstores managed to increase sales in the first half of the year, with sales up 6.9%, to $3.86 billion, suggesting that booksellers took some of the market share from other sales channels.
The softest spot in the children’s/YA category was hardcover, where sales fell 9.2% in the category’s biggest format; paperback sales declined 3.3%. The digital format did well, with e-book sales up 9.7% and downloadable audio sales increasing 14.5%. Even with the gains, digital accounted for 8.4% of total sales in the segment in the six-month period, up from 7.1% a year ago.
In the adult books segment, digital audiobook sales jumped 18.8% in the first half of 2023, offsetting a 2.4% dip in e-book sales. The two digital formats accounted for 29.6% of total category sales, up from 28.2% in the first half of 2023. Over the past six months, digital audio sales crept closer to matching revenue generated by e-books at the companies that report to AAP, trailing by $50.5 million, down from $117.4 million. Earlier this month, HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray told PW he believes audio sales will eventually surpass sales of e-books.
Two of the three adult print formats held their own in the first half of the year, with adult hardcover sales up 2.7% and paperback sales ahead 0.2%. Mass market paperback sales continued to tumble, down 24.2%. The format accounted for only 2.7% of adult book sales, down from 3.7% in the first half of 2022.
In the religious book segment, the 1.2% sales decline was driven by a 4.1% drop in hardcover, by far the segment’s largest format. E-book sales were down as well, falling 4.7%. Digital audio sales rose 6.8%. The two digital segments combined to generate 13.8% of all sales, up slightly from the 13.6% digital accounted for in the first six months of 2022. Digital audio sales at the publishers who report to AAP totaled $23 million, compared to $27.9 million for e-book sales.