E-book sales tripled in 2010

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The trade association of the US book publishing industry tracks monthly and year-to-date publishers' net sales revenue in all categories of commercial, education, professional, and scholarly books and journals. E-book sales have tripled over the past year, according to the February 2011 sales report released by the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

More specifically, between February 2010 and February 2011, e-book sales saw a growth 202.3 percent and downloaded audiobook sales grew by 36.7 percent. For February 2011, e-books ranked as the number one format among all categories of trade publishing (Adult Hardcover, Adult Paperback, Adult Mass Market, Children's/Young Adult Hardcover, Children's/Young Adult Paperback).

The recent surge is primarily attributed to a high level of strong post-holiday e-book buying by consumers who received e-reader devices as gifts in December 2010. The expanded selection of e-readers introduced for the holidays and the broader availability of titles made the difference.

Additionally, trade publishing houses cite e-books as generating fresh consumer interest and new revenue streams from backlist titles (books that have been in print for at least a year). Many publishers report that e-book readers who enjoy a newly-released book will frequently buy an author's full backlist. This may happen with normal books as well, but it's a behavior that is much more difficult to track.

The AAP report is based on data provided by 84 US publishing houses representing major commercial, education, professional, scholarly, and independents. Data on e-books comes from 16 houses. Here are a few more highlights from the report:

  • E-book sales were $90.3 million, growing 202.3 percent versus February 2010. Downloaded audiobooks were $6.9 million, an increase of 36.7 percent.
  • Adult Trade categories combined (Hardcover, Paperback and Mass Market) were $156.8M, down 34.4 percent. Children's/Young Adult categories combined (Hardcover and Paperback) were $58.5M, a decline of 16.1 percent.
  • Religious books saw February sales of $48.5 million were an increase of 5.5 percent; this reflects growth as well in the category for year-to-date, up 6.1 percent to $93.9 million.
  • Higher Education sales for YTD (January and February 2011) were $406.9 million, down slightly by 5.6 percent versus YTD 2010. In K-12, YTD sales were $173 million, declining 8.9 percent from 2010.
  • Total sales for professional books and journals were $42.9 million, a slight drop of 3.6 percent versus February 2010. Combined sales of University Press (hardcover and paperback) were $6.7 million, falling 6 percent versus last year.

"The February results reflect two core facts: people love books and publishers actively serve readers wherever they are," Tom Allen, President and Chief Executive Officer of AAP, said in a statement. "The public is embracing the breadth and variety of reading choices available to them. They have made e-Books permanent additions to their lifestyle while maintaining interest in print format books. Publishers have always strategically expanded into all the markets and formats where readers want to find books, whether it was Trade Paperback, Mass Market or now digital. By extending their work as developers, producers and marketers of high-quality content to emerging technologies, publishers are constantly redefining the timeless concept of 'books.'"

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