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 is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and Verge.