Book market

Six Charts of the U.S. Book Market, 2017 to 2021

Following record US book sales in 2021, we review five years of book market data collected by the Association of American Publishers.

The 2021 AAP StatShot Annual Report combines annual data submitted by publishers and distributors with market modeling to provide a view of US book market sales and revenue. Image: AAP

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

Five Year StatShot Annual Reports

Ochicken the Association of American Publishers’ annual StatShot report for 2021 has been released in September, key figures for this assessment estimated that “the United States book publishing industry generated US$29.33 billion industry-wide during the year, the highest figure ever reported by StatShot Annual. This figure reflects an increase of $3.23 billion, or 12.3%, from revenues of $26.1 billion in 2020.”

This, of course, is good news in one of the most influential and closely watched markets in the world, especially during the pandemic years.

Thanks to the authorization of the team of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), we are able to offer you an overview of some of the key findings from the AAP’s annual report on the US book market over the past five years.

Maria A. Pallante

Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO of the association, said, “The industry was running full steam ahead in 2021, delivering benefits across the value chain for literature, scholarships and educational materials. . Ultimately, we know books are immeasurable and timeless as they make their way into the world. Nonetheless, in an overcrowded economy of entertainment options, it’s thrilling and rewarding to see such a resounding affirmation for reading.

As many of our readers know, the StatShot annual report incorporates “a unique methodology that combines annual data submitted by publishers and distributors, along with market modeling, to estimate the total volume of the edition in the United States”. You will find more information on this methodology at the end of this article.

Selected tables: StatShot USA 2021 Annual Report

Image: Association of American Publishers Statshot 2021 Annual Report. Used with permission

In table 2.0 above, you can see that all but two sectors saw an increase in revenue in 2021, with trade seeing an increase of 9.1%, higher education an increase of 1.3% , preschool to grade 12 an increase of 19.3%, and university presses saw an increase of 11.2%. Professional publishing and the “other” category both experienced a drop in revenue, with the professional category decreasing by 6.0% and the “other” category by 24.7%.

Image: Association of American Publishers Statshot 2021 Annual Report. Used with permission

In Table 4.1 above, you can see that downloaded audio was the fastest growing format in the industry from 2017 to 2021, and it generated $1.75 billion in revenue in 2021. an increase of 12.8% over the previous year (Table 4.0).

Over the five-year period from 2017 to 2021, downloaded audio grew by 103.9% overall. Revenue growth continues to come at the expense of physical audio, which declined 23.7% to $50 million in 2021. Physical audio declined 68.5% during the five years running from 2017 to 2021.

Image: Association of American Publishers Statshot 2021 Annual Report. Used with permission

From Table 4.0 above, it is clear that nearly half (49.3%) of industry revenue in 2021 came from two print formats: hardcover and paperback. From the discussion of the report:

  • Bound book revenue increased 13.7% to $7.93 billion in 2021, with bound book revenue increasing a total of 24.5% from 2017 to 2021 (Table 4.1).
  • Paperback revenue increased 15.3% to approximately $6.52 billion in 2021. Over the five-year period from 2017 to 2021, paperback revenue increased by 17. 1% (Table 4.1).
  • Mass market revenue grew to $450 million in 2021, an increase of 3.3%. Over the five-year period from 2017 to 2021, mass market revenues declined by a total of 36.4% (Table 4.1).

Image: Association of American Publishers Statshot 2021 Annual Report. Used with permission

Compared to Table 5.1 above, in 2021, revenue attributable to brick-and-mortar retail reversed a seven-year decline, climbing 23.9% as consumers returned to bookstores. PAA discussion:

In 2021, publishers showed the strongest percentage growth in physical retail and direct channels. Revenue rose 23.9% for physical retail compared to 2020, reversing a previous multi-year decline, reaching $6.22 billion.

Direct Channels saw a 22.5% increase over 2020 to $5.84 billion. The Midstream Channels category grew 14.6% to $4.99 billion in revenue, and Export Channels saw an 18.9% increase over 2020 to $1.49 billion .

Online retail fell 0.5% to $9.60 billion, but grew revenue 24.2% over the past five years. The mid-channel, direct channel, and export channel all also saw revenue growth over the five-year period from 2017 to 2021.

Image: Association of American Publishers Statshot 2021 Annual Report. Used with permission

Compared to Table 5.3 above, in 2021 hardcover books accounted for 31.0% of publishers’ sales to the online retail channel, while paperbacks accounted for 22.7% of total sales. The hardback category showed an increase in 2021. E-books accounted for 20.0% of publishers’ sales to the online retail channel, downloaded audio accounted for 15.2% and educational materials 7.5% .

Image: Association of American Publishers Statshot 2021 Annual Report. Used with permission

And according to Chart 8.0 above, for commercial publishers (consumer books), physical formats accounted for more than three-quarters of their 2021 revenue at 75.5%. Hardcover revenue increased 13.6% to $7.07 billion, paperback revenue increased 14.2% to $6.24 billion. Specialty binders increased 11.6% to $420 million, and mass market increased 3.3% to $450 million.

Downloaded audio has continuously increased its market share over the five years covered by this report, and in 2021 accounted for 9.3% of commercial publishers’ revenue. E-books decreased 5.0% from 2020 to $1.97 billion in 2021 and accounted for 10.5% of total publisher revenue for the year. Mass market accounted for 2.4% of total commercial revenue or $450 million, down from last year.

Methodology

“The StatShot annual report,” states the Association of American Publishers, “is based on data prepared by Management Practice Inc., which is the statistical partner of the Association of American Publishers, and provides financial insight into the industry of book publishing which is more than the sum of the monthly statistical analyzes of the Association of American Publishers.

“StatShot Annual uses a unique methodology that combines annual data submitted by publishers and distributors, along with market modeling, to estimate the total volume of the United States publishing industry.

“In addition, StatShot’s annual reports have estimated revenue and unit sales in the following market segments: trade (consumer books), higher education, preK-12, trade and academic presses.

“The Association of American Publishers (or its predecessor) has provided this service in various forms since 1947. Participants are listed at the end of the report. Management Practice Inc. states that the survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level, plus or minus 5 percentage points. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding. »

The full 48-page annual report is available for purchase from the Association of American Publishers, at US$445.


This article first appeared in our Frankfurter Buchmesse trade fair magazine, now available to all of our readership in a free digital download for our global online readership. The magazine originally appeared in print on the Messe Frankfurt during the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 19.

The magazine has extensive coverage of the issues and trends leading the discussions and debates at this year’s show, as well as interviews, profiles and commentary in this busy Frankfurt year. Click here for your download (PDF).

To learn more, see Publishing Perspectives on Industry Statistics. here. And more about the Association of American Publishers is here.

Learn more about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for CNN.com, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.