Total book industry sales rose 4.6% in 2003, to an estimated $23.4 billion, according to estimates released by the Association of American Publishers. The 2003 figures were compiled by a new firm, Management Practice Inc., which restated industry sales back to 1997. Merrick Payne, Management Practice principal, said AAP members felt that while the growth rates in recent years have been right, the "platform" was too high. To correct the figures, total sales in 1997 were lowered from $21.6 billion to $17.2 billion and growth calculated from the smaller base.

The updated statistics also change some of the industry's reporting segments. Book clubs and mail order have been combined and subscription reference eliminated. In addition, the "all other" segment has been greatly expanded, with the AAP estimating sales in that category of $2.3 billion last year.

Payne said that segment includes such items as computer manuals and other printed products that are often given away as part of the purchase of equipment. Katie Blough, who oversees the statistics program for the AAP, believes the new sales figures, which are reviewed by different AAP committees, have more integrity than in past years due in part to more participation from publishers.

According to estimates, trade sales rose 1.2% in 2003, to $5.06 billion. The increase in the segment was due entirely to the juvenile hardcover segment, which reported a 28.6% gain in 2003, to $698 million, driven by the sale of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. All other trade segments were down in the year, with the juvenile paperback segment showing the biggest decline at 5.2%. Adult hardcover sales fell 2.4%, to $2.45 billion, while trade paperback sales slipped 0.6%, to $1.46 billion.

The biggest gain in the year was reported in the religion book category, where sales jumped 50.2%, to $1.26 billion, helped by the sales of such huge sellers as The Purpose-Driven Life. Sales of mass market paperbacks fell 1.7% in 2003, to $1.22 billion. Sales in the combined book club/mail order segment fell 9% last year, to $1.31 billion. Professional sales rose 3.6%, to just under $4 billion.

The educational segments had modest gains in the year with elhi sales up 2.5%, to $4.29 billion, and college segment sales ahead 3.6%, to $3.39 billion. Low growth had been expected in the elhi market due to fewer state adoption opportunities, but sales of college texts were slightly below expectations. Helped by increased mandates for more school testing, sales in the standardized tests segment rose 12.4%, to $591.9 million.

As is typical in publishing, the AAP figures don't quite square with reports from other industry segments. In particular, growth in the trade segment appears a little low, given reports by the major chains that sales rose 6.9% in 2003. And the 2.4% decline in hardcover sales is at odds with reports from various outlets of the strong sales of hardcover bestsellers in the year, particularly during the holiday season. Still, no one in trade publishing would claim that 2003 was a banner year.

Preliminary Estimated Book Sales 2002—2003 ($ in millions)

Source: Association of American Publishers
SEGMENT 2002 2003 % CHANGE
Total Trade $5,002.3 $5,063.8 1.2%
Adult Hardcover 2,512.1 2,451.8 -2.4
Adult Paperback 1,474.2 1,465.4 -0.6
Children's Hardcover 542.8 698.0 28.6
Children's Paperback 473.2 448.6 -5.2
Book Clubs & Mail Order 1,422.8 1,308.9 -9.0
Mass Market Paperback 1,239.1 1,218.0 -1.7
Religion 840.1 1,261.8 50.2
Professional 3,840.4 3,978.7 3.6
El-Hi 4,185.7 4,290.4 2.5
Higher Education 3,273.1 3,390.9 3.6
Standardized Tests 526.6 591.9 12.4
All Other 2,067.8 2,315.9 12.0
Total 22,398.1 23,420.6 4.6