Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Book Sale Trends

I’ve been keeping a worksheet this year to track the trends of book sales for the calendar year of 2008. It’s been interesting to see how individual categories of books have sold over the year. The biggest gains have been achieved by ebooks. Even though ebooks haven’t broke into the mainstream, ebook sales are growing expontentially.   From January through August, the ebook numbers look like this (in the millions of sales):

^26.1 (3.1m)
^6.7 (2.6m)
^58.9% (4.4)
^19.9% (3.4 m)
^24.3% ($3.3 m)
^87.4% (4.9m)
^71.1 (4.5m)
^82.9% (4.3m)

These numbers reflect increases from same month sales of a previous year (as opposed to Year to Date sales numbers).

The Children’s/YA Hardcover has been hit hard by the loss of Rowling:

Childrens Hardcover
-21.9% (33.6m)
^8.1 (40.7m)
^2.4 (48.1m)
-19.9% ($39 m)
-4.9% ($40.4 m)
^18.2% (48.8m)
-77.2% (58.6m)
-9.3% (70.1m)

That 77.2% decline is for the month of July and represents a decline of 77% in same month sales from 2007. July 2007, of course, saw the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Adult mass market sales (50% of which are represented by romance sales) are troubling:

Adult Mass Market
^17.3% (65.3m)
^0.4% (59.5 m)
-10.9 (67.4m)
^ 4.7% (53.2 m)
-9.6% ($77.2 m)
^1.2% ($71.9m)
^29.6 (78.8m)
-4.5% (70.1m)

Except for January and July, Adult Mass Market sales have either showed small increases or losses. The biggest loser in sales has been audiobooks. I’m not really sure I know the reason for that. In July, audiobooks posted a 65.8% (11.0m) decrease in same month sales which was followed up in August by a 6.9% (11.9m) decrease.

The entire worksheet can be seen here. I think I need to reconfigure the worksheet for ease of use and to reflect YTD changes.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Wendy
    Oct 11, 2008 @ 17:46:25

    My guess is that audiobook sales are down because they’re wicked expensive. For example, you can now buy High Noon by Nora Roberts in mass market for $7.99 retail. The audiobook CD price? Yeah, still $40 retail. Even if you buy it as a download at Audible, you’re still shelling out $21.

    When the economy tanks, people run back and discover the joys of the public library. Where they once might have avoided the library because they 1) had disposable income and 2) didn’t want to “wait” – the economy is now forcing their hand. Yeah waiting still sucks, but if you don’t have the $40 to shell out for your own audio CD, you learn to live with it.

    The irony, of course, is that library budgets are also tanking thanks to the economy. So librarians are trying to figure out how to help/serve more people with less. Fun times.

  2. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 11, 2008 @ 17:50:43

    Audiobooks: the July numbers will be Harry Potter, as well. Audiobooks were huge for HP.

    Also, perhaps rise of iTunes and MP3s, both from bookstores and online downloads? I got an MP3 of Brockmann’s All Through the Night for $22, rather than the more than $40 a CD set would have cost. And I know there are many more downloading retail sites out there for them, too.

  3. BevQB
    Oct 11, 2008 @ 19:40:19

    I’m wondering if, with the inclusion of more years of data, we’d see that part of the audio book dip in July and August would appear to be cyclical. Audio books are (and I’m making an assumption here) most popular with commuters. A whole lot of those commuters (at least in North America) probably take their vacations in July and August and have no need for audio books during that time.

    Just curious, Jane- where you are getting the data from? Particularly ebook sales– is that across the entire epub industry or only for ebook sales by mainstream publishers? Is it U.S. data only?

    Btw, I wonder how much the Kindle contributed to the huge increase in ebook sales?

  4. Jane
    Oct 11, 2008 @ 20:11:38

    @BevQB – These sales numbers come from American Association of Publishers:

    The Association of American Publishers is the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry. AAP's more than 300 members include most of the major commercial publishers in the United States, as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies-‘small and large.

    So the sales don’t come from retail organizations. Also, I’ve seen reports that the audio sales have been declining for a couple of years.

  5. BevQB
    Oct 11, 2008 @ 20:34:40

    Oh, okay, thanks for satisfying my curiosity.

    I've seen reports that the audio sales have been declining for a couple of years.

    NONONO! I can’t let this happen! I know I’ve been trying my damndest to promote them in Romancelandia because the more they sell, the more they will make! Although, there’s just GOT to be something profitable about them because Amazon bought both Brilliance and Audible. Granted, I think that’s partly for sales to Kindle owners, but they have to be optimistic about the audio book industry’s future.

  6. Jane
    Oct 11, 2008 @ 20:41:15

    @BevQB – this article suggests that at least in 2007, there was an increase so maybe the decline you see is a blip.

%d bloggers like this: