Digital sales outstrip bricks and mortar in US

The US book and journal publishing industry sold $27.01bn of books in 2013, with e-books hitting record volume numbers although revenue for the format was flat.

Publishers net revenue from sales of digital and print products online is now ahead of revenue from bricks and mortar stores, the annual BookStats Volume 4 survey, compiled by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, showed.

In the trade category, adult non-fiction was the fastest growing category in 2013, surpassing juvenile, which includes children’s and young adult books and which has been the fastest-growing category for the past two years.

The trade sector, covering general consumer fiction and non-fiction, generated $14.63bn in net revenue, and 2.32bn in volume in 2013, while all US sectors, which includes the trade sector plus education and professional/scholarly journals, sold 2.59bn units.

The slight decline in revenue from $27.12bn in 2012 to $27.01bn in 2013 was largely due to 2012 being the “strongest year in publishing’s recent history with a series of blockbuster releases”, including Fifty Shades of Grey and the The Hunger Games.

That net revenue remained largely flat “supports the fact that while specific, extraordinary titles may impact publishing from year to year, the industry’s health is driven by the depth and range of titles and formats produced by publishers”, said the report.

Publisher revenue from online sales was $7.54bn, while revenue from bricks and mortar was $7.12bn. Online retail represents 35.4% of all trade publisher revenue.

E-books hit a record high in terms of units in 2013, but trade paperbacks remain the number one trade format. E-book units increased 10.1% from 465.49m in 2012 to 512.70m in 2013, but revenue was mostly flat, down 0.7% from $3.06bn in 2012 to $3.04bn in 2013.

Downloaded audiobooks hit all-time highs in both revenue and units, with revenue up 19.2% from $228.83m in 2012 to $272.82m in 2013.

A total of 1,616 publishers provided data for the report, some directly and some from distributors on behalf of their publisher clients.