2012 Book and eBook Sales
E-Book Sales a Boon to Publishers in 2012
By JULIE BOSMAN
E-book sales, especially in the thriving romance genre, gave the book business a lift in 2012, according to a survey of publishers released Wednesday.
In a year that was monopolized by the “Fifty Shades” erotic novels and their various knockoffs, e-book sales in fiction rose 42 percent over the year before, to $1.8 billion. Growth in nonfiction e-book sales was smaller, a 22 percent increase, to $484.2 million. E-book sales in the children’s and young-adult categories increased 117 percent, to $469.2 million.
The survey revealed that e-books now account for 20 percent of publishers’ revenues, up from 15 percent in 2011. Publishers’ net revenues in 2012 were $15 billion, up from $14 billion in 2011, while unit sales of trade books increased 8 percent, to $2.3 billion.
The annual survey, known as BookStats, was compiled by two trade groups, the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. It includes data from about 1,500 publishers, including the six major trade houses.
The numbers reflected a publishing industry where more books are available in more formats than ever before, and where consumers’ preferences continue to shift. Print formats were flat or decreasing, while e-books and downloadable audiobooks boomed.
“You’re seeing an evolution in terms of the way that people are accessing content,” said Dominique Raccah, a former chairwoman of the Book Industry Study Group and the publisher of Sourcebooks, a midsize publishing company in Naperville, Ill., outside Chicago. “Audio downloads are up, e-books are up. There’s a migration in format clearly occurring. Customers can now access books in a lot of different ways.”
Publishers’ revenue from brick-and-mortar retail stores suffered, dropping 7 percent to $7.5 billion, while revenue from online retailers like Amazon boomed, rising 21 percent, to $6.9 billion. The survey was the first glimpse of a full year of book sales after the bankruptcy and liquidation of the Borders chain in 2011.
Sales of hardcover and trade paperback books were relatively flat: hardcovers accounted for just over $5 billion in 2012, up from $4.9 billion in 2011. Mass-market paperbacks, the smaller format of paperback popular in airports and grocery stores, also decreased in sales.
Another format that continued its rise in popularity was the downloadable audiobook, which had a 22 percent bump in revenues in 2012 compared with 2011, increasing to $240.7 million from $197.7 million. Publishers attributed the increase partly to the widespread use of mobile devices.