As has been well documented, the pandemic had many unexpected consequences over the past few years, not the least of which was a boom in trade book sales in both 2020 and 2021. But while the trade segment fared well in 2020, the other major publishing segments did not, and total industry sales had only a 0.2% gain that year over 2019. In 2021, trade sales jumped again, but so did sales in the other segments, resulting in a 12.3% increase in total sales, to $29.33 billion, according to the Association of American Publishers’ final statistics for the year.

The final figure marks a major improvement over numbers from the previous four years, when sales ranged between $25 billion and $26 billion. In 2021, sales in all segments except professional books topped their 2019 numbers, which have become a measuring stick many companies use given the volatility of the past two years.

The most notable improvement in 2021 was in the pre-K–12 instructional materials category, where sales jumped 25.3%, to $4.81 billion (the highest they’ve been in five years), as students returned to schools in greater numbers. That increase followed a 12.3% decline in 2020. After a 5.2% drop in sales in 2020, the higher education category also saw a gain last year, with sales rising 2.8% over 2020, to $3.22 billion.

Sales in the trade segment followed up a 6.1% increase in 2020 with an 11.6% jump in 2021, to $18.79 billion. Within the trade segment, the AAP numbers provide a good look at how format and channel sales fared between 2019 and 2021. Trade sales through physical retailers reversed three years of declines in 2021, posting a 40.4% increase, with sales reaching $3.66 billion in 2021, as stores reopened after a long period of lockdowns. Sales through online channels, which jumped 25% in 2020, slipped 0.5% last year, to $8.39 billion. Sales through physical retailers accounted for 19.5% of all trade revenue in 2021, up four percentage points from 2020, while online retailers’ share of sales fell to 44.7%, from 50.1%. In 2019, physical retailers’ market share was 19.2%, compared to 42.5% for online retailers. Sales in the intermediary channel—primarily wholesalers and distributors that supply books to retailers and libraries—bounced back in 2021 and were well ahead of 2019’s sales. Also worth noting is that export sales rose again in 2021, increasing 16.3%.

The loosening of the pandemic’s grip had an effect on format sales in trade books, as well. The 12.4% increase in sales of e-books in 2020 was reversed in 2021, with sales declining 5%, to $1.97 billion. Downloadable audio sales posted another double-digit annual gain, up 12.8%, to $1.75 billion last year. Hardcovers generated the most revenue, with sales of $7.07 billion, a 13.6% gain, while trade paperback sales rose 14.2%, to $6.24 billion. In 2021, print books accounted for 75.5% of trade sales, up from 74.4% in 2020 and 74.7% in 2019.

Adult fiction sales rose 21.3% over 2020, to $5.72 billion, while nonfiction sales increased 2.1%, to $6.4 billion. On the children’s and young adult side, fiction sales increased 15.9%, to $4.31 billion, but nonfiction, which had a 9.1% increase in 2020 as parents scrambled to find educational materials while schools were closed, fell 3% in 2021, to $940 million.

Sales at religious presses rose 21.9% last year, to $1.42 billion—the first increase since 2018. (Sales of religious books are now included as part of the trade segment.) The gain followed an 8% decline in 2020. Hardcover sales drove the increase, jumping 58.4%, to $842.6 million. Downloadable audio sales jumped 57.5%, topping the $100 million mark for the first time and surpassing e-book sales, which fell 0.4%, to $98.2 million.

The final AAP sales figures are generated by combining input from 2,231 participating publishers (either contributing directly or through their distributors), which reported a total of $16.86 billion in revenue, with $12.44 billion in estimated revenue for nonreporting publishers—a figure developed through market modeling by Management Practice Inc. Companies that supplied sales figures for the report were asked to provide five years of data to ensure comparability over the period measured.