Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Recently Rachelle wrote a post on how Amazon continues to be a disruptor to the publishing industry. This time Amazon’s decision about what buy buttons are readily displayed based on which seller offers the lowest price is the cause of disruption. The default first buy button will almost always be to a third-party seller rather than the publisher. This has a chilling affect on the economic health of both publishing houses and authors. Seeing Amazon roiling the publishing world’s waters once again, made me think that this is a good time to take an overall look at what’s going well for publishing and what’s not faring so well.
Publishing Trend #1: Audio booms
One area of consistent and impressive growth for publishing is the sale of audio, particularly downloadable audio books. Publishers Weekly recently produced an article, which you can read here, that explored this area of growth.
According to the most recent data from the Association of American Publishers’s StatShot program, sales of downloaded audio through the first three quarters of 2016 grew 29.6% compared to the same period in 2015, and in November 2016 sales of digital audiobooks were up 47.2% over the previous November. The Audio Publishers Association is awaiting the compiled results of its latest consumer and sales surveys, which are due to be released next month. But the 2015 APA findings showed audiobook sales were 20.7% higher than in the previous year, part of a string of year-to-year increases since 2011.
No other part of publishing begins to approach this growth rate. That means publishers are paying attention to audio in new ways. First, by creating audio editions of many more of their titles than they’ve ever attempted in the past.
Second, they’re looking at innovative methods to market their audiobooks. According to the article, Macmillan is looking to expand the number of audiophiles through creative marketing.
Efforts have included a promotion with the Avis rental-car company’s business customers, sponsoring foot races to appeal to those who listen while they run, and working with food companies to do sponsorships and promotions for people who listen while they’re cooking.
Publishing Trend #2: e-book sales continue down
Sales for e-books released from traditional publishers fell 14.7% in 2016 compared to 2015. Surveys have consistently shown that some readers are turning back to physical books. And teens generally prefer physical books over e-books. This resurgence in purchasing physical books is seen to have its genesis in digital fatigue. Readers are looking for breaks from staring at a screen.
Publishing Trend #3: Hardbacks on the rise
Hardcover book sales have increased 5% over 2015, and outsold e-books in 2016 for the first time since 2011. I personally think this interest in hardback books is a reflection of a new-found love for physical books. Also, publishers’ new agreements with Amazon allow publishers to set their own prices, resulting in increased e-book prices. That makes a hardback seem less like an extravagant a purchase than it did previously.
Publishing Trend #4: Mass market continues its downward trend
Unit sales for mass market paperbacks are down 46.5% from 2010. That makes this format the clear loser. The decline has been precipitous and consistent. My take on the reason for this sharp downward trend is that the mass market book is priced close to what one would pay for an e-book. Added to that, many mass market books are romances, one of the most popular e-book purchases. When faced with the choice of buying a small book that’s kind of awkward to hold open and a digital book at about the same price, the digital book wins.
Publishing Trend #5: All book categories’ sales are up
So far this year, all book categories are seeing a slight increase in print sales. That means adult fiction (1%), adult nonfiction (2%), juvenile fiction (4%), and juvenile nonfiction (3%) are all up.
These publishing trends showcase an industry that seems to have rebounded from many severe blows over the last ten years. Those blows including the advent of the Kindle; the Department of Justice’s legal action against publishing that resulted in severe financial penalties; the contentious negotiations with Amazon over pricing; the closing of Borders Bookstores and CBA’s largest chain, Family Christian; and the public having ever so many other ways to entertain itself.
But society and the publishing industry continue to experience an age of disruption. We know that, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, publishing must decide how to respond to Amazon’s policy that makes it considerably harder for publishers to actually sell copies of their books on the site. The challenges continue…
How have you changed your book buying habits or your reading habits over the last year?
How is publishing faring in this age of disruption? Click to tweet.
What’s the latest in publishing sales trends? Click to tweet.
Photo by Gavin Whitner