April 26, 2016 Last Updated 1:01 pm

Despite slow holiday season, US book sales up slightly in 2015

Association of American Publishers report continues to show declining eBook sales for major publishers, but overall consumer book sales grew to $7.2 billion in 2015

Washington, DC – April 26, 2016 – Publishers’ book sales for trade (consumer) books from Jan. to Dec. were up 0.8% to $7.2 billion compared to $7.1 billion in 2014. Despite a slow holiday season, the year ended slightly up, with a shift in sales for format and category.

AAP logoOverall publisher revenue for 2015 was $15.4 billion, down 2.6% from the previous year. These numbers include sales for all tracked categories (Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses). Publisher net revenue is tracked monthly by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and includes sales data from more than 1,200 publishers (#AAPStats).

A more detailed analysis of 2015 will be available with the StatShot Annual Report, which includes information from more than 1,800 publishers and market modeling, and will be available for purchase.

Some of the 2015 trends include:

  • eBook sales declined this year – mostly from the Childrens & Young Adult category (C/YA down 43.3% from 2014).
  • Downloaded audio continues to grow in popularity – this growth is most evident in the Adult Books category (Adult up 38.9% from 2014).
  • Trade publishers fared better than educational or scholarly publishers.
  • Adult Books performed better than other trade categories.


“For trade publishers, 2014 was a blockbuster year – especially in the Childrens and Young Adult Books category; so despite the challenging comps, increased sales in Adult Books helped the industry post gains in 2015,” said Tina Jordan, Vice President of the Association of American Publishers. “We’ll explore the reasons for the gains in the upcoming StatShot Annual.”

surlygirl-bookstorePublisher sales of trade books for the month of Dec. 2015 were up 0.3% compared to Dec. 2014, and up 0.8% for the full calendar year.

  • Childrens & Young Adult Books were up 7.3% compared to Dec. 2014, the category still ended the year down 3.2%.
  • Adult Books were down 2.6% in Dec., but ended the year with an overall growth of 2.2%.
  • Religious Presses continued several months of sales growth, up 5.6% in Dec. and 1.2% for 2015.

Trade Formats:

Downloaded audio and paperback books have grown every month in 2015 vs. the same month in 2014.

  • Within Adult Books, downloaded audio is up 38.9% and paperback is up 16.2% for the year; eBooks declined 9.5% and hardback is down 0.5% for the year.
  • Within Childrens & Young Adult Books, paperback is up 9.5% and board books were up 12.6%; eBooks declined 43.3% and hardback is down 7.7% for the year.

Educational Materials:

Revenues for PreK-12 instructional materials were up for the month of Dec. 2015 vs. Dec. 2014, but down 4.1% to $3.2 billion for the year.

Higher Education course materials were down 6.5% for the month of Dec. 2015 vs. Dec. 2014, and down 7.2% to $4.1 billion for the year.

Professional and Scholarly Publishing:

Sales for Professional Publishing, which includes business, medical, law, scientific and technical books and journals, were up 4.2% for Dec 2015 vs. Dec. 2014 and down slightly by 0.8% for 2015.

University Presses were down 3.1% year-over-year compared to the same 12 months in 2014.

* NOTE: Figures represent publishers’ net revenue for the U.S. (i.e. what publishers sell to bookstores, direct to consumer, online venues, etc.), and are not retailer/consumer sales figures.

Publishers’ book sales for trade (consumer) books from Jan. to Dec. were up 0.8% to $7.2 billion compared to $7.1 billion in 2014.

Photo: Bookstore by surlygirl used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

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