American publishers' half year sales down 3.4%

American publishers' half year sales down 3.4%

US publishers’ revenues fell 3.4% year-on-year to $5.37bn (£4.32bn) for the first half of 2016, new statistics from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) have revealed.

The latest monthly AAP StatShot, covering June, showed that while total trade revenues for the month grew 6.7%, the gains were not enough to counter declines from earlier in the year, and the overall category sales decreased 1.1% in the first half of 2016.

The AAP StatShot, which includes sales from more than 1,200 publishers and tracks categories including trade fiction and non-fiction and children’s books, showed that the greatest percentage gains from the first half of the year came from religious presses, which saw growth of 54.6% in June 2016, an "unusually high" percentage, compared to June 2015. The whole category has grown 16.8% over the past half year compared with the same period in 2015.

In the first half of 2016 compared with 2015, paperback books grew 8.8% to $1.01bn (£0.81bn), downloaded audio grew 32.3% to $126.7m (£101.84m), hardback books grew 0.9% to $989.7m (£795.10m) and e-books were down 20.0% to $579.5m (£465.76m). The AAP does not track self-published e-books.

The month of June was also a month of “incredible” growth for downloaded audio, with 51.7% more revenue than June 2015.  E-books, meanwhile, had “their slightest” monthly decline in over a year, down 9.7%.

Educational materials had a revenue loss of 2.1% for K-12 instructional materials and 5.9% for higher education course materials, in the first half of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015. Professional publishing was down 23.1% in the first half of 2016 compared with the first three months of 2015. These categories include business, medical, law, scientific and technical books. University presses were also down 1.7% in the first half of 2016 compared with 2015.

Tom Allen, president and c.e.o. of AAP, said: “After a tough first quarter - with trade sales down 7.4% from the prior year - second quarter sales have bounced back with 4.6% growth. Sales of adult, children’s and religious books all increased in the second quarter due to a mix of factors including movie tie-ins, a diversity of titles from small and midsize presses, and religious presses recovering from a tough 2015."