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Publishing Industry Sales: Good News for Publishers, Not So Much for Libraries?

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Publishing Industry Sales: Good News for Publishers, Not So Much for Libraries?

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A comprehensive survey of 1,963 publishers released in August 2011 conducted by BookStats [] shows promising sales growth in major publishing markets. This is quite a change from the past doom-and-gloom sales information coming out of the publishing industry. Net income from publishers is up 5.6% from 2008. Publishers sold 2.57 billion books in all formats in 2010, a 4.1% increase since 2008.

Publishers are seeing growth in all major markets including trade, academic, and professional. Trade books grew 5.8% to $13.9 billion; higher education is up 18.7% to $4.55 billion in 3 years. One of the strongest growth areas was adult fiction, which has seen an 8.8% revenue increase over the past 3 years. Professional publishing books which includes science, technology, medicine, and the humanities, increased by 6.3% to $3.75 billion. Scholarly publishing had a net revenue growth of 4.7%.

While the improvement in revenue has been good news for the publishing industry, relief has not come fast enough for Borders, formerly one of the major brick-and-mortar companies selling books. The industry saw the very sad and painful demise of Borders this summer. While there are many reasons for that demise, it certainly stems from a long series of bad decisions by its management team. Throw in the shift in buying habits as customers migrated to online buying, the lack of digital vision, the replacing of an experienced book management team with merchants outside the book trade, and inefficient supply chain management, and you have a perfect storm that destroyed the company.

Another major brick-and-mortar book store company also saw some interesting action this summer. In May, John Malone from Liberty Media offered to buy Barnes & Noble for about $1 billion, hoping to make Barnes & Noble a serious competitor to Amazon. After a few months of negotiation, the sales approach was halted. Instead, Barnes & Noble received a $204 million investment from Liberty Media. There is still life left in old B&N.

Most of the energy driving all the excitement in the publishing industry is coming from the rapid growth in ebook sales. The growth in ebook trade publishing has grown from 0.6% in 2008 to 6.4% in 2010. To give you a better perspective, consider that the romance genre, which makes up 13.2% of the consumer book market, is responsible for more than 20% of all ebook purchases.

In the U.S., Random House (RH) ebook sales for the first half of 2011 account for 20% of its revenues. RH now has 27,000 ebooks available, with 10% of sales revenue in the U.K. coming from ebooks. Simon & Schuster's ebook sales revenue is at 15%, Harper Collins' is at 12%, and Pearson's Penguin unit, at 14% of worldwide sales, is now electronic. With more than 85 reading devices in the marketplace and strong consumer acceptance of digital formats, we are seeing a major transitional period as users move from print to electronic formats. Amazon now sells more Kindle titles than hardcover and paperbacks combined.

It is not just the U.S. that has witnessed this rapid growth, Western Europe grew by 400% in 2010, and it is predicted that by 2015, ebooks will make up to 15% of the total book sales in the region. The U.K. is the largest market to embrace the ebook. It is estimated that Amazon has sold more than 400,000 Kindles in the U.K. since the device was introduced in August 2010. The U.K. is on track to achieve ebook sales of 100 million [pounds sterling] this year, which would represent about 5% of the total U.K. consumer spending on books. Futuresource Consulting, a U.K.-based consulting firm, estimates that by 2015, the tablet market in Germany will account for one-half of the paid ebook sales. To drive the ebook market in Western Europe, publishers are going to need to increase their marketing of e-readers and tablets, and increase the number of local language titles. …

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