Revenues rise 6%, to more than $23 billion

Book sales increased 6.4% in 1998, to an estimated $23.03 billion, according to preliminary estimates from the Association of American Publishers. Although the gain is slightly below earlier estimates that forecast an 8% increase (News, Feb. 22), the 6.4% gain is still the best improvement the industry has seen since 1993, when total sales also rose 6.4%. Moreover, the increase is higher than the 5.3% compounded annual growth rate recorded by the industry in the 1992-1998 period. Every category but mail order, which had a 9.7% decline, posted gains last year.

The educational publishing segments recorded their second consecutive year of solid gains, with elhi sales up 10.3%, to $3.31 billion, and sales in the higher education category rising 8.2%, to $2.89 billion.

The biggest news in the sales report, however, was that the battered trade segment showed signs of life last year, with sales up 6.5%, the largest gain since 1994, when sales rose 10.3%. The two paperback segments recorded the largest growth, with adult trade sales up 10.2%, to $1.9 billion, and children's paperback sales ahead 13.8%, to $535.2 million. The increase in the children's paperback segment follows an 18.9% decline in 1997, leaving sales in the segment still below the high-water mark of $579.9 million set in 1996. Gains in the hardcover segments were less robust, with the adult hardcover category posting a 3.3% increase, to $2.75 billion, and the children's hardcover segment up 5%, to $953.9 million.

The mass market paperback segment began to recover the ground it lost in 1997, when sales fell 7.8%, posting a 5.6% gain, to $1.51 billion, in 1998.

The university press segment managed to post a 6.5% gain, to $391.8 million, an increase slightly above the industry average, while the 6.3% sales rise posted by the professional segment was just shy of it.

Among the other segments, religious book sales were up 4%, to $1.18 billion, and book club sales increased 5.8%, to $1.2 billion. Sales of standardized tests rose 6.9%, to $204.6 million, and subscription reference sales were ahead 4.2%, to $767.4 million.

AAP president Pat Schr der called the sales report "good news," adding that the industry needs to make an aggressive effort to recapture "lapsed readers" and turn them into book buyers.