Books in 2011: more sales, lower gross, profit…

Books in 2011: more sales, lower gross, profit…

The BookStats report has been released for 2011.

This is a joint study from the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group.

While the actual report costs over $2,000 for non-members, the “key highlights” being released are interesting.

I’m going to give you a major caveat first.

Since these figures are most likely based on tradpubs (traditional publishers), I think they are going to miss a great deal of e-book sales. If you are an independent publisher, I believe you are far more likely to be an e-book only publisher. Your income is going to come from e-book sales. You may not have year-to-year comparisons…if you just got into the publishing business this year. 🙂

Even without that, e-books are now the mainstream format for adult (as opposed to children’s books) fiction.

That’s right…if you buy paperbooks, you are now the niche market. 😉

That’s not exactly right. E-books were number one, but they count mass market paperbacks, trade paperbacks, and hardbacks separately. Brick-and-mortar stores were still the number one channel for book sales.


E-book sales are exploding, still.

According to this

Publishers Weekly article

e-book unit sales increased 210%.

Let me do a quick calculation, though.

Gross increased 138% (2.07 billion versus 869 million).

If the 210% is correct, there are many more e-books being sold…but at lower prices (since the gross isn’t increasing at the same rate as the units).

Again, this won’t count all of the ninety-nine centers from indies.

I’m generally seeing this headlined as overall book sales are down, and according to the report, they are.

However, trade sales are up.

What are trade sales?

Those are the books you’d buy in a brick-and-mortar store, basically. It’s popular fiction and popular non-fiction.

It doesn’t include textbooks.

To sum this up: e-book sales increased quickly enough to offset the loss of sales of trade p-books.

Now, I have seen this headlined as profits being down.

We don’t know that, based on the highlights.

I’m trying not to give you everything from the highlights, and I do recommend you read them.

The key question on the profit is this: is the amount that the overall US publishing sales are down made up by lower costs?

That’s much trickier than a lot of people think at first (it’s not just about the cost of paper and ink).

Renting server space costs less than renting store space…you can store the equivalent of a million copies of a book on a server (actually, you produce the “copies” as they are needed) much less expensively than having a warehouse with a million copies of a p-book.

Publishers don’t have to buy back unsold e-books.

Publishers don’t have to account for remainder sales of e-books separately, as they do for p-books.

Publishers likely do, though, pay more to authors for e-books than they do for p-books (especially for ones that sell over 10,000 copies…see

My intuition here is that publishers are profiting more for trade books than they were before, thanks to e-books.

The loss may be coming from non-trade books…and e-books haven’t conquered that in the same way.

One other interesting thing, and then I’ll leave the rest to you reading the originals.

Publisher are making a lot more on selling directly to consumers than they did before.

That’s definitely something to watch.

If you don’t need to go to a store to shop, do you need to go to a retail website?

What is a publisher let you directly subscribe through them to Stephen King’s future novels? Maybe they give them to subscribers a week earlier?

Would you wait for Amazon in that case?

Without the retailer (or “sales agent”) cut, publishers could (hypothetically) lower prices.

To figure out where we are going to get brand name authors’ books in the future, we have to look at Amazon as a publisher and publishers selling direct to readers.

All in all, it’s fascinating stuff.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

2 Responses to “Books in 2011: more sales, lower gross, profit…”

  1. jbgator9 Says:

    Wondering how they account for all the free books we get from Amazon. I know I have several hundred. Although I am an avid reader and go through several in a week, I wonder if I will be able to read them all before I die, lol. I am fussier now tho, if they don’t grab me fairly early in a read, I hit the delete button and try another.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jbgator9!

      I would think the vast majority of those aren’t counted, since they largely aren’t coming from the traditional publishers.

      The publishers’ gross also isn’t based on what customers pay, except when the publishers sell directly to the customers. If Amazon is buying those books from traditional publishers and then giving them away to the customers (without the publisher having lowered the list price), Amazon would take that hit…the publisher would get the same money they would have otherwise.

      The “before you die” thing is a simple calculation for me…books that I would love reading are published much faster than I can possibly read them. Given that it is an unachievable goal for me to read every great book in the world, it doesn’t have to feel like a race. I enjoy what I’m reading now.

      I’ve never not finished a book (although some have been a challenge, I’ll admit).

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