The publishing industry has seen some significant ups and downs in recent years. Supply chain problems have inhibited publishers while an increase in print sales has left some with a sense of optimism.

For those of us with a vested interest in the state of the publishing industry—sales, jobs, and literary culture as a whole—here are a few interesting numbers to consider for the years ahead.

Industry Size and Market

In 2020, the global book market was valued at $132.1 billion and is expected to grow at a modest compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.8 through 2028. The industry is heavily influenced by the availability of per capita disposable income, which has been on the rise in recent years despite the challenges of the pandemic and other economic conditions. In fact, because of lockdowns and isolation measures that were put in place, heightened demand for books in 2020 has been attributed to the pandemic. Overall, publishing is a relatively mature market that has tended not to see massive growth or decline spikes in recent years, but that does not mean that it is stagnant. Technological innovations like ebooks, audiobooks, and the shifting landscape of e-commerce have heavily impacted publishers and how they reach readers. In the United States specifically, 2021 book sales amounted to approximately $9.5 billion. Here are some additional statistics for more specific categories of book publishing:

Reading Habits: In 2018, the mean annual expenditure on books by Americans was $107.98, then down to $92.08 in 2019, and then back up to $113.87 in 2020. The daily average amount of time spent reading by Americans was thirty-four to thirty-five minutes in 2020, up from twenty-eight minutes in 2019.

Trade paperback and hardcover books: Paperbacks made up $3.34 billion in book sales revenue in 2021, while hardcover books made up $3.7 billion. Adult fiction books are the largest revenue-generating segment, followed by higher education materials and textbooks, K–12 educational books, Children’s and Young Adult books, professional books, and so on. The distribution of paperback compared to hardcovers remains relatively stable year over year, with paperbacks accounting for roughly 35 percent of total trade books sales and hardcovers making up another 31 to 32 percent.

Ebooks: Statistics and data on ebooks are somewhat challenging to get a firm grasp on, with data from Amazon and independent or self-published authors being difficult to pin down. The data available from market research firms like Statista show that ebooks have increased in sales fairly consistently since 2018. In 2021, ebooks reached $1.1 billion in sales. This is about the same revenue that they earned in 2020, which was up from the $9.83 million they made in 2019. As has been noted before, despite anticipation early in their development, ebooks have not been widely adopted as a total replacement for physical books and are highly unlikely to do so in the future.

Audiobooks: This format of reading is rapidly gaining popularity and has established itself as the fastest-growing segment of publishing. In the decade between 2010 and 2020, the number of audiobook titles increased by over sixty-four thousand. In 2021, digital and physical audiobooks accounted for $787.8 million in sales, up from $701.4 million in 2020 and $612.8 million in 2019. By 2020, audiobooks generated $1.3 billion in sales revenue. These increases are indicative of expanding adoption of new technologies and improved production capabilities to transform manuscripts into well-made audiobooks. It further speaks to important gains in progress for accessibility for readers with visual disabilities or other reading impairments.

Leave a Reply