2012 Trade Sales: E-Books Sales Up but Rate of Growth Slows
In 2012, trade book sales rose 6.9%, to $15.049 billion, and e-book sales continued to grow, although the rate of growth slowed, according to Bookstats, a survey conducted by the Book Industry Study Group and the Association of American Publishers that includes data from nearly 2,000 publishers.
After several years of triple-digit growth, e-book sales grew 43% in 2012, representing 457 million e-books compared to 557 million hardcovers, and e-books now account for about 20% of publishers' revenues, up from 15% in 2011. The strongest segment of the e-book market remained adult fiction, boosted by erotica, with sales up 42%. Nonfiction e-book sales rose 22% while children's/YA rose 117%. The audiobook format, sparked by mobile device sales and downloadable content, also remains solid.
Hardcover and paperback sales were essentially flat while mass market sales fell. In the first full year following the collapse of Borders, publishers' sales to bricks-and-mortar retailers dropped 7%, to $7.5 billion. By contrast, sales to online retailers rose 21%, to $6.9 billion.
"The numbers reflected a publishing industry where more books are available in more formats than ever before, and where consumers' preferences continue to shift," the New York Times wrote.
USA Today noted the e-book numbers showed "enough of a difference in the annual growth rate to have publishers talking about an e-book 'slowdown,' even as digital books remain the fastest-growing part of the market."
The "slowdown reflects a marketplace that is maturing with multiple formats--digital and print," said Michael Pietsch, CEO of the Hachette Book Group. "In all the talk about e-books, we often lose track of the fact that more than three out of four books sold in the U.S. are still printed ones."
Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch added: "Consumers have settled into their book formats of choice. Physical book sales will have a longer tail than previously anticipated."