October 27, 2016

New Q3 2015 AAP Data Shows Continued Rise of Downloaded Audiobooks While Ebook Sales Decline

New data from the the AAP (Association of American Publishers).

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 the first three quarters of the year (Jan. –  Sept. 2015) were down 2.0% at $11.9 billion compared to $12.1 billion for the first nine months in 2014.

These numbers include sales for all tracked categories (Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, K-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses).

Revenue for trade books was flat. Publishers net revenue is tracked monthly by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and includes sales data from more than 1,200 publishers.

Some of the trends noted during the three quarters of 2015:

  • While sales for trade books overall were flat, the categories within had different growth trajectories from Jan. – Sept.:  Adult Books were up 2.9%, Children/YA were down 7.4%, and Religious Presses were down 1.5%.
  • Paperbacks and downloaded audiobooks within the trade category grew in double digits.
  • Sales declined for Higher Educational Course Materials and PreK-12 Instructional Materials.


Year-to-date, Trade Book revenues were flat at $5.0 billion.

  • Adult Books: The largest of the categories grew to $3.5 billion through Sept. 2015 compared to 3.4 billion in the same timeframe in 2014. Within that, paperback books (16.0%) and downloaded audio (41.5%) were the formats with the greatest growth. This category has shown growth every month in 2015, with the exception of Feb.
  • Children/YA: Revenue within the category declined to $1.1 billion through Sept. 2015 from $1.2 billion for the same timeframe in 2014.  eBooks (44.8%) and hardback books (14.5%) led the overall 7.4% decline in the category.  We’re still seeing the impact of tough competition against 2014 blockbuster titles, including the Divergent series.
  • Religious Presses were down 1.5%, with $390.1 million in revenue to date in 2015 compared to $395.9 million in 2014.

“Adult books are leading the way so far this year for growth in the trade category. This is a stark contrast to the tremendous growth last year in Children and Young Adult books,” said Tina Jordan, Vice President at the Association of American Publishers.

Total Trade Net Revenue by Category (in millions)

Jan. –  Sept. 2015 Jan. –  Sept. 2014 Percent Change
Adult Fiction/Non-Fiction $3,478.7 $3,380.4 2.9%
Children/YA $1,136.7 $1,227.7 -7.4%
Religious Presses $390.1 $395.9 -1.5%
Total Trade $5,005.5 $5,004.1 0.0%

Trade Formats:

  • Downloaded audio remained the fastest-growing format, with 37.7% growth compared to the same period in 2014.
  • eBooks were down 11.1%, with most of the decline coming from Children/YA books (44.8%).
  • Paperbacks continued their good performance this year with 13.3% growth.
  • Hardback books were down 6.4%.

AAP StatShot Jan - Sept 2015  (1)(2)

Educational Materials:

Revenues for PreK-12 instructional materials were down by 5.0% in the first three quarters of the year. Higher Education course materials were down 4.4%.

Professional and Scholarly Publishing:

Sales for Professional Publishing, which includes business, medical, law, scientific and technical books and journals, are up 13.0% through Sept. 2015 compared to the same timeframe in 2014.  University Presses declined slightly at 1.8%.

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.