AAP Report on May Hardback and e-Book Sales: Are These the Kingpins of the Publishing Future?

The Association of American Publishers has just released net sales figures for the month of May 2010.
From their press release:

New York, NY, July 14, 2010— Publishers’ book sales tracked by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) for the month of May increased by 9.8% percent on the prior year to $715.3 million and were up by 11.6 percent for the year-to-date.

The Adult Hardcover category was up 43.2% percent in May with sales of $138.5 million; sales for the year-to-date are up by 21.7% percent. Adult Paperback sales decreased 2.2 percent for the month ($110.7 million) but increased by 15.7 percent for the year so far. Adult Mass Market sales decreased 14.6 percent for May with sales totaling $54.6 million; sales were down by 7.3 percent year-to-date. Hardcover Children’s/YA sales declined 1.3 percent for the month with sales of $58.1 million in May; year-to-date sales are down by 23.3 percent. Children’s/YA Paperback sales decreased 8.1 percent in May with sales totaling $39.9 million; sales fell 6.6 percent for the year-to-date.

Physical Audio Book sales posted an increase of 5.1 percent in May with sales totaling $12.9 million; sales for the to-date are up by 13.1 percent. Downloaded Audio Books increased 72.9 percent on last year, with sales of $5.9 million this May; the category was also up 33.3 percent year-to-date. E-book sales grew 162.8 percent for the month ($29.3 million), year-to-date eBook sales are up 207.4 percent. Year-To-Date E-book sales of the 13 submitting publishers to that category currently comprise 8.48 % of the total trade books market, compared to 2.89% percent for the same period last year:

Religious Books were up 8.2 percent for the month with sales totaling $40.1 million; sales were up by 2.6 percent year to date.

Sales of University Press Hardcover books increased 13.9 percent in May to $4.1 million; sales increased by 1 percent year to date. University Press Paperback posted a gain of 4.9 percent for the month with sales totaling $2.8 million; sales were down 0.1 percent for the year. Sales of Professional books rose by 6.7 percent to $56.9 million and were up by 13.2 percent for the year-to-date.

Higher Education publishing sales increased 6.3 percent for the month ($160.0 million) and increased 21.4 percent for the year. Finally, the K-12 El-Hi (elementary/high school) category posted total net sales of $267.3 million, down 0.4 percent on the prior year, in May, and year-to-date sales of $756.6 million, a 5.3 percent increase on 2009.

While figures like 162.8% plus on e-books may no longer surprise us, the May on May figure for Adult Hardcover of 21.7% combined with the continued decreases in paperback sales show only one way forward for publishers who care about the long tail future and forecast for books. There is is a new dichotomy emerging from book buyers and readers – those who value books physically as lasting gifts to be treasured, and those who see the book merely as an exquisite medium to quickly and comfortably access literature and information. 
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