Major publishers in the United States have been experiencing massive declines in e-book sales in the first half of 2016. Sales of eBooks were down 20.0% and generated $579.5 million, which is quite staggering. This is the second year in a row where e-book sales have plummeted, in 2015 eBooks were down 12.7%.
E-books continuing to trend downwards is actually good news for the rest of the publishing industry. In the first half of 2016 the sale of paperbacks grew 8.8%, hardcover increased by 0.9% and audiobooks sales were up 32.3%.
I remember a time when every major media publication proclaimed that by 2020 print would be totally dead and e-books would reign supreme. It is funny how a 20% to 30% price increase across the board could stymie the digital revolution.
Here are the full details from the American Publishers Association for the first six months of 2016.
- For the first half of the year, sales in all tracked categories were down 3.4% to $5.37 billion vs. the same six months in 2015. Tracked categories include: Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses.
- Publishers’ book sales for June 2016 in all tracked categories were $1.46 billion, down 4.7% from June 2015.
- In the first half of 2016, compared to the first half of 2015, trade sales were down 1.1% to $3.03 billion:
- Adult Books had $2.11 billion in sales, down 2.8%
- Childrens/YA Books had $689.3 million in sales, up 0.9%
- Religious Presses had $222.4 million in sales, up by 10.4%
Trends for Trade by Format
- In the first half of 2016 vs. 2015:
- Paperback books grew 8.8% to $1.01 billion
- Downloaded audio grew 32.3% to $126.7 million
- Hardback books grew 0.9% $989.7 million
- eBooks were down 20.0% to $579.5 million
- Interesting trends in June:
- June 2016 had an unusually high percentage of growth in religious presses’ Paperback Books, which are up 54.6% compared to June 2015; the whole category has grown 16.8% over the past half year vs. 2015.
- June was also a month of incredible growth for downloaded audio, with 51.7% more revenue than June 2015.
- In June eBooks had their slightest monthly decline in over a year, down only 9.7%.
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.