Book Sales Drop in 2009, but E-Books Explode

book sales drop, E-book sales explode
book sales drop, E-book sales explode

The Association of American Publishers released its annual report of estimated book sales in the United States in 2009, gathering data from the Census Bureau and from more than eighty publishers. The report underscores the defensive mentality that has permeated the publishing industry of late, with one notable and much-publicized exception: e-books.

Total net book sales were reported to be $23.8 billion, down 1.8% from $24.9 billion in 2008 -- which itself was down 2.6% from the previous year. Overall sales of trade books -- the fiction and non-fiction books you know and love -- totaled $8.1 billion, a 1.8% drop from last year. However, adult hardcovers jumped 6.9% to $2.6 billion, helped in part by a little-known author named Dan Brown.

Trade paperbacks fared worse, falling 5.2% to $2.2 billion, and mass market paperbacks weren't so hot, dropping 4% to $1 billion. Sales in higher education rose 12.9% to $4.3 billion, but when K-12 sales were broken out, they declined 13.8%, to $5.2 billion.

E-books sales, however, were busting out all over. With month after month of exponential growth, it should surprise few that total 2009 sales were approximately $313 million, up 176.6% from 2008. And already in 2010, that growth curve is shooting up even more, as January sales alone were $31.9 million -- 10% of 2009's total, and a much higher proportion than the 3% to 4% of total book sales last year.

When the AAP reports February book sales later in April, expect to see those e-book numbers climb higher. But the real growth fun will likely begin this summer, once we have a fuller picture of the e-book sales impact caused by the iPad (AAPL).