Study Finds Publishers’ Sales Grow, Indie Booksellers Weather Challenging Times

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Publishers’ net sales revenue grew by 5.6 percent and unit sales were up by 4.1 percent over the past three years, according to BookStats, a statistical survey of the U.S. publishing industry, produced jointly by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. The study, released on Tuesday, offers data compiled from more than 1,950 publishers and other resources on sales in the trade, K-12 school, higher education, professional, and scholarly markets. Figures in the report reflect publishers’ sales figures and quantities inclusive of all discounts and credit for returns; they do not reflect consumers’ purchases or prices.

Overall U.S. publishing revenues were $27.94 billion in 2010. The trade market share was $13.94 billion, an increase of 5.8 percent since 2008, reflecting consistent gains in both adult fiction and juvenile sales (nonfiction and fiction) over the three years. 

The largest distribution channel for trade sales in the U.S. in 2010 was brick-and-mortar retailers, which accounted for 40.8 percent of the total, according to BookStats. Chain stores accounted for 53.54 percent of publishers’ sales directly to retailers, followed by independent booksellers and specialty stores (10.6 percent each), and mass merchants (3.84 percent). The study noted, however, publishers’ sales to wholesalers and jobbers (30.1 percent in 2010) have an impact on these numbers, “particularly for independents, specialty stores and mass merchants, outlets that rely on wholesalers/jobbers as merchandise sources.”

From 2008-2010, publishers’ net sales revenue to brick-and-mortar retail chains declined 2.7 percent overall, but for independents the outcome was somewhat better. “While seeing some loss over the three-year arc, independents did not experience the changes seen by retail chains,” the study found. “Publishers’ books sold directly to independents declined 1.8 percent from 2008-2009 and had a 3.7 percent decline from 2009-2010.  Net sales revenue for publishers directly into the independent market for 2010 is $642 million.  Net unit sales directly to independents for 2010 is 52.9 million.”

“We’re heartened to see from the AAP/BISG data that the independent bookstore channel has weathered the most challenging economic times in recent memory,” said ABA Chief Executive Officer Oren Teicher. “We’re also confident that our channel is well positioned to take advantage of changes currently evolving in the marketplace. By featuring a focused, curated inventory and benefiting from democratization of technology, our members are capitalizing on their ability to adapt quickly to changing conditions, and they are leveraging their strong and authentic connection to their communities. We are very bullish on the future of indie bookstores.”

“In addition,” Teicher continued, “other industry data make clear that indie bookstores continue to play a critical role in the consumers’ ability to discover their next great read. The indie channel remains an indispensable showroom and source of information about authors and new titles. We look forward to reviewing the full AAP/BISG study when it’s released in the coming weeks.”

The data released on Tuesday confirmed that from 2008-2010 online retail gained market share lost by other channels.  Contributing factors were “strong overall growth of the online channel as consumers are switching their purchase preferences and the explosion of the e-book as a reading format,” the study said. In 2010, publishers’ net sales revenue for content sold directly to online channels, which include e-commerce sites of brick-and-mortar stores, reached $2.82 billion, an 18.8 percent increase from 2008-2009 and a 30.7 percent increase from 2009-2010. Over the three-year period, online net sales revenue grew 55.2 percent, while net unit sales grew 68.6 percent.  In 2010, publishers’ total net unit sales to online channels reached 276 million.

More study highlights can be found on the AAP website; the complete survey is available for purchase.