May 18, 2009

Publishers Report 17% Drop in Book Sales

I receive an e-mail from Shelf Awareness daily that has snippets about the book trade in it. Today I received one that included a piece about March's drop in sales and I wanted to share with you what it said, in case you do not receive this e-mail yourself, although I know some of you do. You can subscribe to Shelf Awareness on their website.

March Sales: Publishers Report a 17% Drop

During March, book sales fell 17% to $388.4 million as reported by 84 publishers to the Association of American Publishers. For the year to date, book sales are down 6.8% to $1.625 billion.

The numbers are in line with the sales drops reported recently by some of the publicly traded publishers but are bigger falls than the Census Bureau reported for bookstores (bookstore sales were estimated to have fallen 1.3% to $999 million in March and are estimated to be down 4.1% to $4.242 billion for the year to date).

The strongest categories were e-books, which more than doubled in sales, children's hardcovers (shout out to Stephenie Meyer!) and the college market.

Among AAP categories:

E-books rose 110.4% to $10 million.
Higher education rose 20.2% to $50.3 million.
Children's/YA hardcover rose 6.7% to $51.7 million.

Adult mass market dipped 4.3% to $65.4 million.
University press hardcover slipped 7.8% to $5.1 million.
Religious books dropped 11.4% to $44.1 million.
Children's/YA paperback fell 14.1% to $44.3 million.
Professional and scholarly dropped 17.1% to $37.8 million.
Adult hardcover fell 19.4% to $80 million.
University press paperback fell 20.7% to $2.8 million.
Adult paperback dropped 35.8% to $89.1 million.
Audiobooks dropped 43.3% to $7.6 million.

Do you have any opinions or thoughts you want to share about these numbers? Leave a comment!


  1. I'm surprised by those numbers. Books are one of the cheapest (and best) forms of entertainment. I buy at least one book a week. Some weeks I buy 2-4. I have a book-buying addiction.

  2. Library use has gone up. As a lot of us are hard-hit by the economy, borrowing has likely become more popular.

  3. Oops, I might have contributed to that figure. I tried to control myself last month. But don't worry I'm out of control with my book buying again so numbers should improve soon.

    Seriously, the book industry is bound to be affected by the global recession isn't it?

  4. Look how many people buy used books though. I'm assuming those numbers are for new books. I know our library is crowded every time we go.

  5. It may be too that people are beginning to spend more time outdoors now too, gardening and such. And a lot of us have tightened our budget which might explain some of the Adult harcover drop. Or just waiting for the paperbacks to come out like I do. I don't worry as long as children's, higher education, and library use are up.

  6. I agree that this is probably new book sales records. I, for one, know I am contributing to the problem. I had to quit my job and moved to help take care of my father and I haven't found another job yet. Needless to say, I am not buying books, much less new books. Used book stores are too good of a bargain, anyway. Right now I am using BookMooch exclusively. The only books I have bought in the past several months have been a few on grief that my sisters and I are sharing.

    I think it would be more surprising and curious if the recession had not affected book sales. You have to do what you have to do and books are (debatably) not as necessary as food and shelter. I am like Sandra, just happy to see people still reading, even if book sales are in a slump.

  7. I agree with you and the other commenters - these hard economic times surely have a lot to do with these numbers. But yes, as long as people are reading..


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