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Industry Sales Rose 4% in 1999, Topping $24 Billion
Jim Milliot -- 2/21/00
Children's segment had the strongest year, offsetting weak results in other trade areas

Total revenues for the book publishing industry rose 4.3%, to $24.02 billion, in 1999, according to preliminary estimates from the Association of American Publishers. The increase last year was markedly slower that the 6.4% gain recorded in 1998 and seemed to catch some publishers by surprise. For the most part, publishers have talked about 1999 as a solid, if not spectacular, year.

Total industry revenues were hurt by weak performances in two areas--mass market paperback, where sales fell 7.3% to $1.40 billion, and elhi, where sales rose 3.0% to $3.41 billion, compared to growth of 10.3% and 14.8% in 1998 and 1997, respectively. In addition, the mail-order category, which has been in decline for several years, had its worst year yet; sales were down 12.3% to an estimated $412.8 million. The drop in mass market paperback sales offset a relatively good 1998 and pushed down revenues in the segment close to the sales level reported in 1997.

The best performing segment was children's, led by a 23.5% increase in the paperback category that drove sales up to $660.8 million. Sales of Harry Potter titles helped fuel a 11.1% gain in children's hardcover sales, with revenues in that segment topping $1 billion for the first time. Sales in the adult trade categories were disappointing, particularly in the hardcover segment, where sales rose only 2.6% to $2.82 billion, the segment's weakest showing in three years. The 3.2% increase to $1.97 billion in the trade paperback segment followed two bullish years; sales rose by 10.2% in 1998 and 7.6% in 1997. The combination of sales in the adult and children's segments resulted in a 5.9% gain for the trade category to $6.51 billion; trade sales were up 6.5% in 1998.

Other major segments that bettered the industry's average growth of 4.3% were higher education, where sales rose 8.3% to $3.13 billion; professional, with a 6.8% gain to $4.72 billion; and university presses, with a 5.1% gain to $411.7 million.

Book club sales, perhaps showing the effects of competition from Internet retailers, increased 3.7% to $1.25 billion, a slower growth rate than the two previous years. Sales in the religious segment increased 3.3% to $1.22 billion.

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