E-books 30% of US adult fiction trade sales

US publishers' sales of e-books more than doubled in 2011, meaning that the digital book is now the dominant single format within the trade sector’s adult fiction category, representing 30% of all adult fiction book sales. But there was also strong growth in the children's sector, and through selling direct, as US trade publishers grew sales by 0.5%.

According to BookStats, which examines US publishers' annual net sales revenues and net units (including adult, non-fiction, children's books and religious publishing), e-book sales rose from $869m, or 6% of trade, in 2010 to $2.1bn, or 15% of net revenues, in 2011. E-book units also more than doubled, from 125m e-books to 388m.

However, in the adult fiction sector, e-books became the dominant single format with 30% of total net publisher dollar sales. In 2010, e-books had ranked fourth among the individual print and electronic categories with 13% share, but in 2011 adult fiction e-books revenue was $1.3bn, growing by 117% from $585m in 2010. This translated to 203m units sold, up 238% from 85m in 2010. The combined print formats still represented the majority of publishers’ revenue in the adult fiction category, at $2.8bn.

Publishers' net sales revenue for the trade sector was $14bn for 2011 as compared to $13.9bn for 2010. This was an increase of 0.5%. The overall total US book market (representing all commercial, entertainment, educational, professional and scholarly sectors) declined just 2.5%, from $27.9bn in 2010 to $27.2bn in 2011. While overall net revenue was down, units sold were up 3.4%, from 2.68bn in 2010 to 2.77bn in 2011.

The Children’s/Young Adult category saw the highest year-over-year, increasing 12% from $2.5bn to $2.8bn.

The BookStats survey also found that publishers’ revenue from direct-to-consumer sales nearly doubled, topping $1bn for the first time. But brick-and-mortar retail remained the number one sales distribution channel for publishers in 2011, as it did in 2010. Revenue from sales through online retail grew 35% from 2010 ($3.7bn) to $5bn in 2011.

BookStats is co-produced by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. The 2012 survey includes data provided by 1,977 publishers from all four industry sectors, Trade, School/K-12, Higher Education and Professional/Scholarly Publishing.