When the Association of American Publishers released its final industry-wide sales report for 2020 last month, it showed another essentially flat year, with sales of $ 25.71 billion, down. by 0.2% compared to 2019. The slight decrease was in line with the general trend of the past. five years. Between 2016 and 2020, overall publishing sales only increased in 2019, up 1.7% from 2018, and 2020 sales were down 3.9% from 2016.
The commerce segment, the largest in the industry, has been the most stable over the past five years, with sales up 3.1% in 2020 from 2016. The adult category was the main one. engine, with sales up 4.9%, while sales in the YA category fell 0.8%. The decline in children’s fiction / YA is slightly disappointing, as 2016 was an exceptionally strong year for children’s fiction / YA, where sales reached $ 3.96 billion, a total that was not met. since. The religious press category saw the largest increase during the period, overcoming an 8.4% drop in 2020 that was largely due to the foreclosure of bookstores and religious institutions.
The categories Higher education and professional books recorded the most significant drops in sales between 2016 and 2020; the professional category had a particularly difficult year 2020, with sales down 14.5% compared to 2019. Sales in the higher education category have been steadily declining since 2016, and publishers are trying to keep up. adapt to the increase in purchases of digital material by students, which tend to be cheaper than printing. Pre-K-12 education sales reached $ 4.38 billion in 2019 before dropping 12.3% in 2020 due to the pandemic, which has reduced textbook purchases and accelerated the shift to digital materials . The growing importance of digital content has led a number of former textbook publishers to transform into learning technology companies.
In addition to an increase in digital hardware sales, the pandemic led to a 19.2% increase in online sales in 2020 compared to 2019, reaching $ 9.5 billion in total. The AAP also noted that 2020 was the first time that the online channel, dominated by Amazon, accounted for more than 50% of commercial sales. In 2016, online sales accounted for 39.5% of commercial sales. In the retail segment (among which the AAP includes the religious category), last year’s lockdowns resulted in a 9.9% drop in physical retail sales from 2019. Retail physical represented 16.7% of retail sales in 2020, compared to 23.4%. in 2016.
The final 2020 results closely followed the preliminary results released earlier this year, which also revealed that sales were equal to 2019. Preliminary results were based on revenue reports provided by 1,354 publishers to StatShot’s program. AAP. Final figures include StatShot revenue as well as estimates for publishers who do not report to AAP. Additionally, the AAP incorporated information from Bowker’s Books in Print database to ensure it captured all active publishers in its report, including small publishers.
A version of this article appeared in the 11/29/2021 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: Will Publishing Sales Increase Again?