Projections released last week by the Book Industry Study Group show total industry book sales increasing 3.8% in 2004, to $28.87 billion. Sales in 2003 rose 3.9%, to $27.82 billion, an increase that was driven entirely by price increases as unit sales slipped by about 1%, to 2.22 billion. BISG projects a 1.2% increase in unit sales in 2004, to 2.25 billion.

The biggest growth among the book segments is projected to be in the children's category, which BISG estimates will increase 10.6%, driven by a 12% gain in paperback sales and 9.3% increase in hardcover sales. BISG's statisticians use a forecasting model that bases projections on historical growth patterns and excludes the impact that one book, such as Harry Potter, can have on a market.

Sales forecasts in the other trade segments are much more modest. Adult hardcover sales are projected to increase 1.8% and trade paperback 1.5%. Sales in the mass market paperback segment are expected to increase 1.8%.

Another segment that should see strong gains this year, predicts BISG, is the "other" religious segment, which includes spiritual titles as well as other religious-oriented books. Bible sales are projected to fall 5.7%, while sales of other religious books are projected to increase 6% this year. BISG statistician Al Greco of Fordham University called religion "a growth business."

The largest growth among all segments measured by BISG is in standardized testing, which, because of government-mandated tests, is projected to have a sales increase of 17%, to $2.13 billion. BISG's forecast for elhi sales is more bullish than some other predictions. The organization projects a 2.8% gain in 2004, and Greco noted that "the elhi tide has turned," adding that many states have more money than they thought. College sales are estimated to increase 2.9%.

Greco said the used book market for college texts is much larger than is usually assumed, "well beyond $2 billion." In addition to buying used texts from college bookstores, students in growing numbers are buying them online, Greco said. "Students think textbooks are too expensive," Greco said.

He was also concerned that trade publishers are not taking the used book market seriously enough. The used market for trade titles "is bigger than people understand," Greco said, and has been driven in recent years by improvement in technology. BISG executive director Jeff Abraham said a top priority for the association's reconstituted research committee is to try to get a handle on how large the used trade book market is.

Over the 2003 through 2008 period, BISG projects that industry sales will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 3.3%, with sales hitting $33.52 billion. The compound annual growth rate in the 1998 through 2003 period was 3.5%. The elhi segment is projected to be the fastest growing book segment over the next five years, increasing at 6% annually. The annual growth rate for the trade segment will be 2.2%.

BISG's figures for 2003 differ from those released by the Association of American Publishers. For the first time in a number of years, the two associations employed different statisticians, who used different data sources to generate their estimates.

This year's BISG Trends book also contains the results of a survey of 244 small publishers. Total sales among survey respondents was $97.5 million, with unit sales of 12.4 million. The largest category was adult and children's trade, which accounted for nearly $60 million.

Projected Book Sales ($ in millions)
Trade $6,696.6 $6,977.4 4.2% 2.2%
Adult 4,788.9 4,868.4 1.7 1.8
Children 1,907.7 2,109.0 10.6 3.0
Mass market paperback 1,744.0 1,775.3 1.8 1.8
Book clubs 1,094.1 1,120.2 2.4 2.4
Mail order 397.5 393.6 -1.0 -1.4
Religious 1,753.4 1,781.8 1.6 1.6
Bibles 657.7 620.4 -5.7 -2.1
Other 1,095.7 1,161.4 6.0 3.6
Professional 5,093.1 5,215.4 2.4 1.9
University press 448.0 460.0 2.7 2.4
Elhi 4,054.0 4,169.0 2.8 6.0
College 3,860.1 3,973.5 2.9 2.4
Standardized tests 1,820.3 2,130.0 17.0 10.4
Subscription reference 857.7 875.0 2.0 2.0
Total 27,818.8 28,871.2 3.8 3.3
* Compound annual growth rate 2003—2008 Source: Book Industry Study Group