Do you know that statistics about book sales and industry trends can be helpful when considering your professional plans and setting your direction for the future?

But here’s one problem:

It’s hard to find good resources that would cover all the most important statistics about book sales in one place.

That’s why:

…I’ve pulled together some of the most interesting and relevant book sales statistics, facts, and trends that you should know if you’re involved in this market.

Looking at current trends can help you set realistic goals for the future.

Physical Books vs. Digital Books

  1. It might seem that most everyone reads e-books on their tablet these days, but surprisingly, sales of digital books are down.  Recent statistics from December of 2018 show that e-books brought in $771 million in the US market between January and September 2018.  Compare that to $800 million in 2017.
  2. For early 2019, e-book sales continued to decline, going down nearly 5% in revenue, having brought in only $244 million in sales in the first three months of the year.  This was $10 million less than in the same quarter of 2018.
  3. According to the Statshot report published in August of 2019, hard copy book sales for that month made up about 80% of all total book sales. This includes paperback, hardback, and children’s books.
  4. For the first half of 2019, individual unit book sales were down from 2018, when a total of about 675 million print books were sold in the US.
  5. Board books are the only exception to this, showing a +19% growth in sales revenue from last year!
Book Sale Statistics by Format
Source: Association of American Publishers

Self Published Books Stats

In both hard copy and digital formats, self-published books have long been marginalized.

Nowadays, with more accessible printing options and digital publishing, they have become a legitimate niche and are here to stay.

Self-publishing has become a viable option for writers of all genres who chose to skip the search for a well-known publisher.

  1. By 2017, over 1 million books had been self-published in both digital and print formats. Many independent creatives and freelance writers are finding financial success in platforms such as Smashwords, an independent distributor of e-books.
  2. According to Smashwords’ 2018 year-end report, on their platform alone, over 507,000 e-books were published representing over 142,000 independent authors. Independent authors are responsible for the marketing and distribution of their books. Without the help of the big publishers, they have to work for every sale.
    “Print on demand options allow independent sellers to print hard copies of their books as orders come in, eliminating large up-front investment for print copies.” Melinda Dawson, Senior Editor at Trust My Paper.
    The development of online platforms such as Smashwords and, of course, Amazon.com has made online marketing and digital distribution more accessible for independent writers.
  3. Some older studies estimate that self-published books have as much as a 30% market share of all digital ebook downloads.

Audiobooks Statistics

Sales of audiobooks are skyrocketing in recent years! Audiobooks are the biggest book industry trend for the last 7 years.

  1. According to a report published in June of 2019 by the Audio Publishers Association, audiobook sales increased by nearly 25% between 2017 and 2018 and total sales approached nearly $1 billion!
  2. Most audiobooks are sold digitally. Over 90% of audiobooks are downloaded from the internet.
  3. There were over 44,500 audiobooks produced in 2018, an increase of over 5% from the year before.

Amazon Book Sales Statistics

  1. According to One Click Retail, Amazon.com sold $4.3 billion more in hard copy books compared to e-books in 2016.
  2. As of 2016, it is estimated that self-published books make up around 60% of the ebooks offered on Kindle Unlimited by Amazon.com
  3. Audible, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, is the largest audiobook producer and retailer in North America and offers over 100,000 unique titles.

What are the Most Popular Genres?

  1. According to the Statshot report from June of 2019, adult non-fiction revenue has grown an amazing 22.8% in the last five years!
  2. Young adult non-fiction has grown even more, with revenues’ growing nearly 40% in the same amount of time!
  3. According to Geoff Affleck, the top five selling categories for hard copy books on Amazon.com are:
    1. Memoirs and Biographies
    2. Self Help
    3. Religion and Spirituality
    4. Health, Fitness, and Dieting
    5. Politics and Social Sciences
  4. Meanwhile, for e-books the most popular categories are:
    1. Religion and Spirituality
    2. Biographies and Memoirs
    3. Business and Money
    4. Self Help
    5. Cookbooks, food, and Vine
  5. According to Book Ad Report, the following sub-genres make the most money:
    1. Romance and Erotica ($1.44 billion)
    2. Crime and Mystery ($728.2 million)
    3. Religious/Inspirational ($720 million)
    4. Science Fiction and Fantasy books ($590.2 million)
    5. Children and Young Adult ($160 million)
    6. Horror ($79.6 million)

“It’s interesting to note that most successful bestselling titles in the ebook category are fiction, while non-fiction dominates for hard copy sales.” Frank Nguyen, Marketing Specialist at Studicus.

Book Reading Demographics

We can’t take a look at book sales and statistics without taking a look at the facts of who is doing the reading.

Demographics are just as important as sales numbers if you want to use this information for your work.

So, who is reading in the US?

  1. According to a report published by Amy Watson in October of 2019, over 80% of adults, age 18 to 29, have read at least one book in the previous year. Older adults, possibly because they are not spending as much time studying and more time working, read slightly less.
  2. In the last year, between 67% and 72% of adults 30 and up (depending on the age bracket) claim to have read at least one book.

Share of adults who have read a book in any format in the last 12 months in the United States in 2019, by age group

Book Reading Demographics
Image Source: Statista
  1. Over 80% of people who read books have at least some college education, if not a degree.
  2. In a more recent survey, done by the Pew Research Center in early 2019, found that 27% of adults have not read any books at all in the last year.
  3. Those who have not read in the past year are less likely to have any college education and are most likely to make $30,000 a year or less.

Access to Technology

  1. Hard copy, printed versions are by far the best selling and most popular form of books. 65% of adults say they have recently read a printed version of a book.
  2. At least 28% of adult readers enjoy both print and digital versions of published books.
  3. Another study by Statista states that there are over 90.5 million e-reading devices in the US!
  4. In February 2019, Statista published a study that found that over 50% of the US population has a tablet.
  5. The US Census Bureau published in 2017 that among all US households, 78% have a laptop or desktop computer. And of those, 77% have an active internet service subscription.

All of this information means that between e-readers, tablets, household computers (not to mention the 265.9 million smartphones in the US), and widely available internet access – digital books and audiobooks have become a normal way to enjoy books.

What Does This All Mean?

All of these statistics for book sales, facts and trends in 2019 can be easily summed up with the following conclusions:

  • Printed books are still going strong and continue to dominate the industry.
  • Non-fiction is hugely popular right now, especially in printed formats.
  • Fiction is more popular for digital downloads and e-readers.
  • Audiobooks, especially in digital format, are the fastest-growing product in the publishing industry.
  • Memoirs, biographies, romance, and suspenseful thrillers are the most popular genres in both print and digital editions.
  • Self-publishing is a very viable option for independent authors.

With over 675 million books printed last year, booming audiobook sales, and a burgeoning market share for independent writers, the publishing industry is going strong.

We can expect a whole new slew of studies to help us analyze and understand this huge and continuously evolving market.

Sources:

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