Thursday, January 5, 2012

Print Book Sales Continue to Decline

Neilsen BookScan have reported their final print book figures for 2011, and as you can see by the numbers in the column on the right, it's not good news for traditional print. Overall decline was double that of last year's 4.5%, in large part due to Borders closing. A slight pre-holiday rise in print sales was offset by a 30% decline in the final week of 2011 as owners of new e-readers turned their attention to ebooks.

Hardest hit this year were Adult Fiction and Mass Market Paperbacks, with each declining by double digits, at -17.7% and -23% respectively. These are, of course, the categories with the largest increase in digital sales. We should see the AAP stats in the coming weeks, which will give us the figures for ebooks. This will tell the other side of the story, which should all be positive.

BookScan data represents roughly 75% of the book trade, with a quarter of the market not reporting. Aside from total income, non-corporate entities are not required to report their sales data, so these figures don't include the tens of thousands of indie publishers out there. However, they do account for the majority of book sales and consequently tell us much about the current trends and trade winds.

Those winds are blowing fiercely in a fairly consistent direction. According to Publisher's Weekly sales of Mass Market Paperbacks have fallen 60% since 2008. Meanwhile, this summer's BookStats report showed ebook sales had grown by 1039% between 2008 and 2010, with revenue increasing 1274%. And 2011 will likely add a fair amount to that.