New Report on Publishing

After reading the results of this latest report from the Association of American Publishers, you may need to get a copy of my book Little Book of Sunshine: For Readers and Writers to chase away the gray cloud of dejection some stats may render.

Of course, sales are cyclical. Most statistical reports aren't published quickly so what happened in 2013 is already news that's a few months old. I guess if anything is true it's that statistics show trends, but there are reasons behind those trends.

AAP Stats

The Association of American Publishers released a 2013 study that showed ebook growth was slowing. In some cases, ebook sales are declining. The study showed 32% of adult fiction was sold as an e-book, but only 17% of adult non-fiction was sold as an ebook.

My Commentary

If ebook growth is slowing, that may be a good thing. In the last 2 years, more ebooks than ever have been published. Traditional publishers are dumping backlist into the stream, and more authors are following the indie path. Not just authors but everyone who has a computer and a word processing app. I can't count the number of times I've heard someone say: "I'm going to publish a book to make a bunch of money." Or words to that effect.

All that translates into thousands more ebooks on the market. If the percentage of ebook sales declined, that's understandable given there are so many more ebooks now than in 2011 when I started.


Books for kids to teens, 15% are sold as e-books, and that number was down from 2012. The AAP study showed that teens actually prefer print to digital. The most popular genres for teens? Just see what's playing at the local theater: adventure, fantasy, and science-fiction.

Point of Purchase

Books are still purchased in stores more (62%) than bought online (27%) with a much smaller number of book sales (13%) from mail order. Even though Barnes and Noble still sells the most, purchased in stores doesn't mean bookstores so much as the big discount stores like WalMart, Target, Costco, etc. The supermarkets, airports, independent bookstores, Books-A-Million, thrift and discount stores--all have a small chunk of the book business.

Hot YA Market

The AAP study surprised many with the revelation that Young Adult books were purchased by people older than the YA target audience: 34% of the time YA books were bought by those 18-29 and 21% of the time by those 13-17. Extrapolating, that means 45% were bought by those 30+, and even those over 55 were responsible for 1 in 11 YA sales.

Interestingly enough, I have evidence of this 55+ age trend of YA readers. In the retirement community where we have a weekend home, the women's book club here just finished reading Hunger Games. I think the age range of this group is 60+ to 90+.

My Commentary

What can you take away from this study of book sales last year? Just some commonsense things.
  • ebook market is glutted so sales are declining
  • readers buy books from places so they're shopping for best price or perhaps for a specific book not sold everywhere
  • readers don't let arbitrary designations about target audience age affect book buying decisions.
Takeaway Truth

The study shows what you may already know, but it also shows there's a shakeup coming. More books and more choice mean readers will be more discriminating. The study also shows possibilities for growth in many areas.

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