AAP StatShot Annual Report 2020: US Book Revenues Flat at $25.71 Billion

From Publishing Perspectives:

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) today released the StatShot Annual report for calendar year 2020, estimating that the United States’ book publishing industry generated US$25.71 billion, a slight decrease of 0.2 percent from 2019 revenue of $25.77 billion.

The AAP makes the point that this is consistent with past StatShot reports, the American book publishing industry’s revenue having ranged between $25 billion and $26 billion since 2016.

In a prepared statement, Maria A. Pallante, AAP’s president and CEO, is quoted, saying, “The 2020 results are remarkable and inspirational for a year that people will long associate with an unprecedented public health crisis, worldwide suffering, and colossal business disruptions.

“That publishing is resilient is nothing new, but we should nevertheless take a moment to recognize the incredible dedication and innovation of the industry in serving readers and the public interest during such an isolating and confusing time.”

Here’s a quick breakdown by sector:

  • Trade: In 2020, total revenue, including directly reported and estimated data, in the industry’s largest category, trade (consumer books), increased by an estimated 6.0 percent to $16.67 billion, and by 8.6 percent in directly reported revenue
  • Higher education: Revenue from higher education declined 5.7 percent to $3.10 billion
  • PreK–12:  Revenue declined 12.3 percent to $3.84 billion
  • Professional books: Revenue declined 14.5 percent to $1.68 billion
  • University presses: The smallest category reported that it grew slightly, by 2.9 percent to $391.7 million in 2020

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG suggests that if your revenues have been between $25 and $26 million for 4-5 years, your business is flat, not growing. Yes, it didn’t grow during the Pandemic, but it also didn’t grow before the Pandemic.

Here’s more detail from the AAP report:

While eBook revenue had declined since 2014, during calendar year 2020 the category was up 11.7%, coming in at an estimated $2.12 billion. Downloaded Audio continued to grow, and was up 13.2% as compared to 2019, with an estimated revenue of $1.42 billion for the year.

The Online Retail channel, which includes sales of digital products as well as physical products sold via online platforms, increased 19.2%, reaching $9.53 billion in revenue, and representing 37.1% of all estimated industry revenue.

Bookstores experienced lower foot traffic, and as a result Physical Retail, which comprises all sales to bookstores and other traditional retailers, including their online sales, saw a year-over-year decline of 11.3%, coming in at $5.13 billion. In addition, the U.S. Export market declined 2.8% to $1.27 billion during 2020. The Direct-to-Consumer channel also suffered a significant decline.

In terms of Trade (consumer books) publishers, this year marks the first time that Online Retail represented 50% of revenues, up from 43.3% in 2019. Across all of Trade, Direct fell 45.6%. There was increased revenue for Children’s & Young Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction, however units declined 9.5% for Fiction titles and increased 0.9% for Non-Fiction titles.

In Higher Education, an increase in distance learning helped to further accelerate widespread adoption of cost-effective eTextbooks in both sales and rentals––including models such as inclusive access––resulting in an estimated 5.7% decline to $3.10 billion as compared to 2019. PreK–12 education publishers saw a 12.3% decline to $3.84 billion as compared to 2019.

Link to the rest at Association of American Publishers

The inflation rate from 2016-2020 was not severe, but if the book business was flat on an inflation-adjusted basis during that period, sales would have increased 14%.

In other words, $1 in 2016 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $1.14 today, an increase of $0.14 over 5 years.

(2021 inflation is significantly higher than any year in the 2016-2020 era, up 5.7% so far during the year. but, since 2021 isn’t finished yet, we won’t know how high the year’s total inflation number will be. Unless the traditional publishing world substantially increases its growth rate, 2021 revenue growth on an inflation-adjusted basis will be quite bleak.)

Per Statshot’s 215 report, overall publisher revenue for 2015 was $15.4 billion, down 2.6% from the previous year.

If the traditional book industry’s revenues had been keeping up with inflation during the 2016-2020 era, the 2015 revenue of $15.4 billion would have grown to $17.6 billion in 2020.

Again, compared to the remainder of the economy not just during 2020’s Covid economic mess, but during the years before Covid, traditional publishing has been in a continuous decline for a long time. When PG checked 2010 publishing income, per Publishers Weekly, 2010 trade publishing sold $27.9 billion worth of books during that year.

PG acknowledges that Publishers Weekly data for 2010 from Bookstats, may reflect a different manner of data collection and aggregation than that used by AAP for its StatShot numbers, but PG is fairly confident that the 2020 publishing business generated much less than the 2010 publishing business did.

That said, PG is happy to have visitors to TPV who are inclined to dig more deeply into the data propose corrections/modifications, etc., to PG’s quick and dirty take on the statistics.

(2021 inflation is significantly higher than any year in the 2016-2020 era, up 5.7% so far during the year. but, since 2021 isn’t finished yet, we won’t know how high the year’s total inflation number will be. Unless the traditional publishing world substantially increases its growth rate, 2021 industry revenue growth on an inflation-adjusted basis will be quite bleak.)

6 thoughts on “AAP StatShot Annual Report 2020: US Book Revenues Flat at $25.71 Billion”

  1. I’ll limit myself to pointing out that since online books are significantly cheaper (20-30%?) than other channels, achieving revenue parity means unit sales will be proportionally higher than those other channels combined.

  2. And again, revenues aren’t the figure to know what is actually happening. Especially when comparing to 2010.

    Online books are, as Felix says, heavily discounted from list – even for new release NYT best sellers. (Apparently, “The Wish” is the current one on top: $28.00 list at Amazon, discounted to $15.99.) Took a bit more Binging to track down the actual tradpubber, but it is Hachette, not a smaller house. Probably around $2.00 to $3.00 gross unit margin to Hachette.

    Ebook is list $28.00 also, $14.99 discounted. Even if they only get the 35% that an indie would (they most certainly aren’t by contract) – that is a gross unit margin of $5.25.

    • Really smart of them to discourage sales of the high margin edition in favor of the low margin one with guaranteed returns and post-return costs. Right?
      Well, it’s good for *some* bodies.

  3. Hmm. Having some time to fiddle around, I went into Statista and did some rough gross margin estimates for the US book publishing industry.

    Revenues: https://www.statista.com/statistics/271931/revenue-of-the-us-book-publishing-industry/
    Estimated expenses: https://www.statista.com/statistics/185246/estimated-expenses-of-us-book-publishers-since-2005/
    The latter says since 2005 in the link – but only has 2010. Both end with 2019.

    So… Gross margin in 2010, using these numbers, was 40.3%. Gross margin in 2019 was 30.93%.

    Revenues (2010 to 2019): Decline of about $2 billion. Gross margin: Decline of $3.25 billion. Margin percentage: Decline of 9.37%.

    Ouch. Of course, this is the US book publishing industry average, and doesn’t apply to any particular publisher. But still… OUCH!

  4. I sense a return (continuation?) of our much unloved whale math. The same thinking that raises e-book prices, sees e-book sales stagnate or decline, and calls it a victory for print.

Comments are closed.