E-books help fuel gains in U.S. book sales in 2012

E-books help fuel gains in U.S. book sales in 2012
U.S. book sales rose to $7.1 billion last year, thanks in part to strong e-book sales, according to the Assn. of American Publishers.
(Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg)

Book sales rose 6.2% last year in the U.S., thanks to the continued growth of electronic publishing, according to newly released StatShot data from the Assn. of American Publishers.

Electronic books, which a decade ago represented a tiny fraction of the industry’s revenue, now are the fastest-growing segment of the publishing business. Indeed, sales of digital versions of books for children and young adults more than doubled in 2012 from a year earlier.


The digital transition has been gathering momentum since the 2007 introduction of e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle, and accelerated with the soaring popularity of tablet computers that followed the 2010 launch of Apple Inc.'s iPad.

E-books account for an increasing share of the industry’s sales, rising from 1% of revenue in 2008 to nearly 23% of sales in 2012, according to data provided by nearly 1,200 publishers.

Total trade book sales in the U.S. reached $7.1 billion in 2012, up from $6.7 billion the prior year.


Sales of adult fiction and nonfiction reached nearly $4.9 billion last year, up 5.6% from 2011. Digital sales in those categories rose 33% to nearly $1.3 billion, with the digital revenue gains more than making up for declines in hardcover book sales, which fell 6.7% to $1.4 billion. Paperback book sales rose 6.2% to $1.5 billion.

Children’s and young adult book sales rose 13% to nearly $1.7 billion in 2012, compared with the prior year. Revenue from children’s and young adult e-books jumped 121% to $233 million. Hardcover books still dominate the category, accounting for nearly $830 million in sales.

Sales in the religion category fell 5.4% to $576.6 million in 2012. Digital book sales in the category rose 20% to $57 million in 2012, while publishers reported declines in paperback and hardcover revenue.



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