The Association of American Publishers released its final report on 2020 industry sales today, and the figures show another flat year, with sales down 0.2% compared to 2019, slipping to $25.71 billion. AAP CEO Maria Pallante called the results “remarkable” given all the challenges caused by Covid-19. Indeed, in spring of 2020, the industry was bracing for severe sales declines.
The final results track closely to preliminary results issued earlier this year, which also found sales to be even with 2019. Those results are based on revenue reports supplied by 1,354 publishers to AAP’s StatShot program. The final numbers include the StatShot revenue plus estimates for publishers that don’t report to the AAP. In addition, the AAP incorporated information from Bowker’s Books In Print database to ensure that it captured all active publishers in this year’s estimate, including small publishers.
As has been previously reported, publishing’s trade segments performed much better than the educational categories, although the final report shows smaller gains for the trade segment as a whole than for the publishers who report to StatShot. Adult trade sales rose 9.6%, to $10.77 billion, while the children’s/young adult category had a 3.5% increase, to $4.7 billion. Sales in the religion category, which had increased for publishers who report to AAP, declined 8.4% for all publishers, to $1.20 billion.
On the educational side, the pandemic accelerated the shift to the increased use of digital materials, particularly in higher education. Sales in the higher education segment fell 5.7%, to $3.10 billion, something the AAP attributed in part to “widespread adoption of cost-effective e-textbooks in both sales and rentals.” With the pandemic causing widespread disruptions to normal el-hi routines, 2020 sales in the Pre-K–12 education category fell 12.9%, to $3.84 billion.
One of the many changes caused by the pandemic was a shift to more online buying, and that is reflected in the AAP report. For all publishers, online revenue rose 19.2% over 2019, to $9.5 billion. The AAP also noted that 2020 was the first time that the online channel, dominated of course by Amazon, accounted for more than 50% of trade sales. The effects of lockdowns on physical stores during the year resulted in an 11.3% decline in sales through physical retail, to $5.13 billion.
This story has been updated with the correct sales for the adult and juvenile categories.