U.S. Publishing Industry’s Annual Survey Reveals $28 Billion in Revenue in 2014

Trends this year included significant growth in the children & young adult category, ongoing growth of eBooks, and the growing popularity of audiobooks

Subscription services for eBooks and audiobooks now tracked

Washington, DC; June 10, 2015 -- The U.S. book and journal publishing industry generated $27.98 billion in net revenue for 2014, representing 2.70 billion in units (volume), according to StatShot Annual, a yearly statistical survey of publishing’s estimated size and scope released today by the Association of American Publishers (AAP).  This represents a slight revenue increase of 4.6% from 2013, which was $26.75 billion. The figures include trade (fiction/non-fiction), K-12 instructional materials, higher education course materials, university presses, and professional books.

2014 Overview: Net Revenue and Unit Growth

The industry’s relative revenue growth was largely due to a 4.2% increase year-over-year within the Trade category (chart below). Trade revenues were $15.43 billion, compared to $14.81 billion in 2013. The largest area of growth within trade was the children & young adult books category.

Trade Category:  Net Revenue and Unit Growth

“The industry’s health is driven by the depth and range of titles and formats produced by publishers. By that measure, 2014 was a good year for publishers with more than 2.7 billion books in all formats sold and continuous innovation in developing new ways for readers to enjoy and learn from books,” said Tina Jordan, Vice President of the Association of American Publishers.

Children & Young Adult: Greatest Area of Growth in Trade

The area of largest growth for the trade category was children & young adult, which had double-digit growth in both revenue (20.9%) and units (13.5%). Children & young adult fiction surpassed the adult fiction market with 843 million units and 746 million units sold respectively.

Within the children’s fiction category, paperback and hardback were the most popular formats, selling about 438 million units and 240 million units respectively.  Downloaded audio and eBooks added significant growth in 2014 as well.

eBooks, Hardbacks and Paperback Show Steady Market Growth

After slightly declining last year, eBooks experienced 3.8% revenue growth to an estimated $3.37 billion dollars. It’s worth noting that though the volume increased only slightly (.2%), over 510 million eBooks were sold in 2014. That’s nearly on-par with the number of hardbacks (568 million) sold in 2014. This number doesn’t account for eBooks consumed through subscription services.

Paperbacks, which remain the most popular format, also saw strong sales at $4.84 billion compared to $4.42 billion and units sold at 942 million compared to 882 million in 2013.

Downloaded Audio Grew Significantly 2014

Though this category is relatively small (48 million units) compared to downloaded eBooks (510 million units), downloaded audio continued its multiyear growth track. The category hit record growth in both units (27.0%) and revenue (26.8%) over 2013. While the category has been growing steadily and significantly, physical audio slightly declined.

Subscription Services Tracked

For the first time, audio and eBook subscription services were tracked by StatShot. Approximately 20 publishers who are currently in the business of providing their books via eBook subscription service provided data on this small, but growing, part of the market.  Subscription audiobooks were more popular than eBooks here, with 3.88 million audiobooks and more than 2.47 million eBook units sold.

“Subscription services and other innovations provide publishers with new forums for proving quality content to readers how and when they want. Their passion for doing this helps frame everything from a child’s first stories, to the texts used in schools around the states, to articles reporting on breakthrough research, and your favorite work of fiction,” said Jordan.

Retail Sales Up, but Online Still Top for Sales

After years of decline, physical retail stores saw an increase of 3.2% in revenue ($3.80 billion from $3.68 billion) and 4.1% in units (577 million from 554 million) in the trade category.

Online retail remained the top sales channel for customers in the trade category, selling 832 million units and providing $5.90 billion in revenue.  The channel numbers reflect how publishers get books into the marketplace, not retailers’ revenue from consumers. While StatShot channel sales data can provide directional information about trends, the data is limited for trade books, as much of the business occurs through wholesale and distribution.

About StatShot Annual

Produced by AAP, StatShot Annual estimates the total size of the U.S. publishing industry by collecting sales data in dollars and units from nearly 1,800 active U.S. publishers. Data is collected directly from publishers, with the help of distributors.  Estimates are used for publishers who do not participate directly, based on company financial reports, government filings, BooksinPrint, press releases, third party research services, and other third party sources. 

Note: All figures represent publishers’ net revenue from all distribution channels (these are not retailer/consumer sales figures).  StatShot Annual captures publishers’ aggregated net revenue from the formats we are able to measure across the different categories.

The StatShot Annual 15 page Executive Report with all corresponding data will be available later this summer. To place an advance order for the report, please contact Tina Jordan at tjordan@publishers.org.

Media with questions should contact Marisa Bluestone at mbluestone@publishers.org or {202}220-4558. 

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