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Consumer Book Sales Up Six Percent in 2003

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June 15-30, 2004 Edition

Consumer Book

Sales Up Six

Percent In 2003

Chicago, IL/06/04/04—Driven by astonishing gains in Religious texts, Children’s and Young Adult Hardcover, Audio books, and E-books, overall sales in the Consumer publishing sector rose 6.3 percent in 2003, according to figures released today by the Association of American Publishers. Adult Hardcover and Adult Mass Market, which between them account for 54 percent of Consumer book market sales, were virtually flat in 2003. The data was contained in a new report, Consumer Books and Materials, released to the press and the public at Book Expo America in Chicago.

Adult Hardcover, which makes up 27 percent of the Consumer sector, grew by only 1.4 percent; Adult Paperback, which makes up 20 percent of the sector, grew at 6.9 percent. Children’s and Young Adult H, comprising 10 percent of the sector, grew by 19 percent, reflecting a resurgence in reading among preteens and teenagers. Religious publishing, comprising 5 percent of the Consumer sector, grew by an astounding 37 percent. Adult Mass Market, which at 27 percent is the largest segment of the Consumer publishing sector, grew by 2.0 percent when measured in dollars but decreased by 2.1 percent when measured in units. Audio book sales increased by 13 percent and electronic books, which grew by 45 percent, continued their explosive growth, albeit from a base which represents only a tiny portion of the Consumer sector.

Returns from retailers throughout the Consumer sector continue to be a problem for publishers. In 2003, Consumer returns were 8 percent higher than in 2002. The magnitude of the problem is reflected in the fact that Mass Market book returns reached an average of 41 percent of sales and Adult Hardcover returns reached 31 percent. Audio books, which like texts are distributed as a physical product, had a 24 percent return rate. On the other hand, electronic books are never returned.

Publisher price per unit in the Consumer sector rose 3.7 percent in 2003; the largest increase (12 percent) occurred in the increasingly popular Audio segment. The price per unit, at the publisher’s level, rose to $11.50 for an Adult Hardcover book and to $4.10 for an Adult Mass Market book.

The AAP report shows that bookstores continue to be the most important distribution channel for Adult Hardcover books, accounting for 52 percent of publishers’ sales. Similarly, Children’s and Young Adult Hardcover and Paperback books are distributed primarily through bookstores. The principal distribution channel for Adult Mass Market and Religious books are through jobbers and wholesalers to retail chain and big box stores. However, 26 percent of all Religious books are distributed direct to the consumer. Adult Hardcover and Paperback books are the most important product categories for bookstores.

AAP publishes an extensive series of statistical reports about the Consumer, ElHi, Higher Education, and Professional publishing sectors. Some of these are issued monthly, based on actual data reported by AAP members; others are available annually; still others reflect the production of published material, including manuals and brochures which are not typically sold as identifiable units. The Consumer Books and Materials report issued today is based on factual data submitted by 21 of the largest publishers in the United States. All AAP reports are available to members free of charge, and can be purchased by others. In the next year, AAP plans to broaden its set of reports to better meet the needs of its members and those who service the publishing industry. A table of contents of the most recent Consumer Report is attached.

The Association of American Publishers is the principal national trade organization of the U.S. book publishing industry. AAP’s more than 300 corporate members include most of the major commercial book publishers in the United States as well as smaller and medium-sized houses, non-profit publishers, university presses, and scholarly societies. AAP members publish hardcover and paperback books in every field including general fiction and non fiction, poetry, children’s books, textbooks, Bibles and other religious works, reference works, scientific, medical, technical, professional, scholarly books and journals, audio books, computer software, and a range of electronic products and services.

The report was prepared by Management Practice Inc., a professional marketing and consulting firm in Stamford, CT.