The Association of American Publishers' preliminary sales estimates for December reflect, at least in part, the weak sales of book retailers over the holidays. Sales of adult hardcovers were 6.4% lower than in December 2001, but sales in the trade paperback segment rose 19.7%, resulting in an overall gain of 4.3% for the adult category. Sales in both children's hardcover and paperback dropped in the month, with hardcover down 7.9% and paperback plunging 51.8%.

Despite the poor December, the AAP figures show that sales in the adult hardcover segment rose 12.8% in the year, with trade paperback sales up 12.9%. Children's hardcover sales increased 2.7% in the year, while sales in the paperback segment fell 0.6%.

The early figures also show that the mass market paperback segment had a strong finish to an outstanding year, with sales up 21.5% in the month and 18.6% for 2002. The university press segments closed out a difficult year with sales declines of 8.6% in hardcover and 1.4% in trade paperback. Spoken-word audio sales had a bad December with sales down 20.9%, contributing to a 0.3% gain for the year.

The professional and education markets had a good December, led by a 23.4% gain in elhi sales, which helped limit the sales decline in the year to 5%. Sales in the professional segment increased 8.9% for the year and were up 12.9% for the college textbook segment.

The association is expected to release more comprehensive sales figures later this month.