An analysis of the digital and print sales of seven companies between 2011 and 2013 provides more evidence that the days of rapidly rising e-book sales, and plunging print sales, are likely over for the trade book market. Digital sales for two of the publishers fell last year compared to 2012, and, in general, digital sales rose more slowly in 2013 than in the previous year, while the decline in print sales slowed as well.
Digital sales fell 12% at the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt trade book division last year, and the share of revenue from digital fell to 13.2%, down from 15.9% in 2012. The decline in digital sales was attributed to the strong e-books sales of Hobbit-related e-books in 2012. In addition, HMH’s culinary line continued to be one of the main factors in the company’s growth in 2013, and e-books account for a relatively small percentage of cookbook sales. Indeed, print sales at HMH rose 12.1% in 2013 compared to the previous year, thanks in part to strong cookbook sales.
Digital sales at Random House declined last year, thanks to brisk e-book sales in 2012 due to the success of the Fifty Shades trilogy. For the first six months of 2013—before the merger with Penguin was completed—digital sales were down about 12% at Random, while print sales dropped less than 1%. Because the Penguin–Random House merger was finalized July 1, 2013, it’s impossible to make year-over-year comparisons for Random, but the company has acknowledged that e-book sales were down last year. Penguin’s e-book sales, meanwhile, rose 28.6% in the first half of 2013, and print sales increased as well. The gains were due in part to a much stronger publishing schedule in the first six months of 2013 than in the same period in 2012. Pearson, Penguin’s parent company, reported that e-books accounted for about 20% of PRH’s pro forma revenue in 2013. In 2012, digital sales accounted for about 20% of Random House’s global revenue and approximately 17% of the Penguin Group’s sales.
Simon & Schuster’s digital sales were up about 20% in 2013. In 2012, digital sales rose 36% compared to the prior year. Print sales fell 2.8% last year, compared to a 6.9% decline in 2012. Digital sales, which include both e-books and downloadable audio, accounted for 27% of all revenue in 2013.
Hachette Book Group, the U.S. division of Lagardere Publishing, reported that its digital sales rose 33% in 2013 and represented 30% of the company’s total revenue. The figures for Lagardere’s worldwide publishing program reflect the slower adoption of e-books outside of the U.S. and U.K., however. Worldwide, digital sales accounted for 10.5% of Lagardere’s revenue in 2013, and they were up 29.5% for the year, compared to the 36.2% gain posted in 2012. Print sales fell 5% last year, compared to a decline of less than 1% the year before.
Print sales fell 10.9% at Harlequin in 2013, but that was smaller than the 12.9% decline recorded in 2012. The problem for Harlequin is that sales of e-books grew a modest 9% in 2013, compared to 23.9% the previous year, leading to a 6.7% drop in total sales.
Digital sales rose just under 30% at HarperCollins for the six months ended Dec. 31, 2013, compared to the same period in 2012, while print revenue fell 6.6%. Digital accounted for 19% of worldwide HC sales in the second half of last year, compared to 15% in the last six months of 2012.
Publishers Sales by Format, 2011-2013
|Lagardère Publishing 2012–13|
|Random House Worldwide (January–June only)|
|Penguin Group (January–June only)|
|Simon & Schuster|
|Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade|
|HarperCollins (July–December only)|