April and May were not good months for the ebook industry. The format fell 1.2% in April and generated $90.8 million in revenue, in May the decline was more pronounced, plummeting 23.4% for the month as compared to May of 2020 for a total of $86.3 million. The declines are directly attributed to more bookstores opening up in the US and shoppers buying hardcover and paperback novels.
Physical paper format revenues during the month of May, in the Trade (Consumer Books) category, Hardback revenues were up 18.7%, coming in at $252.8 million; Paperbacks were up 14.5%, with $229.9 million in revenue; Mass Market was down 15.1% to $19.2 million; and Board Books were down 4.8%, with $9.0 million in revenue. Year to date, Hardback revenues were up 33.8%, coming in at $1.3 billion; Paperbacks were up 23.0%, with $1.1 billion in revenue; Mass Market was up 18.0% to $99.1 million; and Board Books were up 9.6%, with $66.0 million in revenue.
Digital Audiobook sales continue to soar. The Downloaded Audio format was up 11.9% for May, coming in at $61.3 million in revenue. Physical Audio was up 48.5% coming in at $2.1 million. In the first five months of 2021, the downloaded Audio format was up 18.4%, coming in at $313.8 million in revenue. Physical Audio was up 11.7% coming in at $9.0 million.
Will ebooks bounce back and will we continue to see double digit gains in 2021? The first 3 months, the format was seeing super strong gains, but it is worrying that in the summer months, sales are falling. I think a decline of of 23% is crazy, and I think for the rest of the year, we will start seeing consistent decreases in sales. Things might pick up again in the fourth quarter, when most of the big books of the year come out. In any case, in the first five months of 2021 eBook revenues were up 4.7% as compared to the first five months of 2020 and generated $455.2 million.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.