New Stats: E-Book Growth Slows As Children’s Hardcover Jumps

The newest statistics from the Association of American Publishers show that e-book growth slowed somewhat in November, though it’s still high — up 65.9 percent over November 2010. Slower growth could be attributed to a pre-holiday sales lull, as consumers waited for new devices like the Kindle Fire to come on the market.
Here’s how November 2011 stacked up compared to November 2010. Trade sales were down 3.5 percent compared to November 2010, while e-book sales were up 65.9 percent — still very high growth but down from the triple-digit percentage growth in previous months.
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Some publishers believe that slower growth is due to people waiting to purchase the new devices, like the Kindle Fire, that launched in November. Assuming many people bought and downloaded e-books over the holiday season and after, we could see growth increase again in the AAP’s December and, particularly, January and February numbers.
Note the big jump in children’s/young adult hardcover sales in November, up 27 percent over last year. Why is that? A possible reason: Bowker’s latest data shows us that bricks-and-mortar bookstores are still the #1 source of discovery for children’s books, and over 85 percent of kids’ books are bought on impulse. “Shop Local Saturday” held in November in response to Amazon’s price check app, sent tons of customers into independent bookstores — and indie bookstore sales were up 15 percent for the holiday period, the American Booksellers Association says. So maybe many of the books purchased then were children’s books.
And here’s how sales compare for the first eleven months of this year, compared to that period last year. The category showing the largest decline is mass market, down 35.4 percent for the year to date, while children’s/YA hardcover was the print category showing the smallest decline (6 percent). E-book sales are up 123.4 percent for the year to date, and downloadable audiobooks up 25.9 percent.
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Note that format isn’t broken out for Religious books in the AAP stats, so it’s unclear from this data whether the growth in that category is primarily on the print or digital side.
The November AAP data is provided by 77 U.S. publishers, with 26 of those additionally providing e-book figures (though not all of those are trade publishers). The AAP cautions that its monthly statistics should not be compared directly to BookStats, the AAP’s recently launched joint venture with the Book Industry Study Group, which will include data from nearly 2,000 publishers and will be published annually. Rather, the monthly numbers provide a general sense of broader trends in book publishing.