AAP-reporting publishers losing children/YA e-book sales: down 43.3% YoY

AAP-reporting publishers losing children/YA e-book sales: down 43.3% YoY

I think I’d better first explain the initialisms in the headline.🙂

The AAP is the

Association of American Publishers

It gathers statistics from over 1,500 USA publishers, and traditionally, has been considered a good source for information about what is happening with publishing (and by extension, reading) in America.

However, it’s worth noting that I’m not part of it.😉

I know, I know…you aren’t either, probably. ;) However, I am a publisher, in a very small way…just my own works. Anyone who makes books for the public to purchase is a publisher, and I feel confident in saying that there are over a 150,000 in the USA. That would mean the AAP might have stats from 10% of the publishers…and it could be a lot lower than that.

Anybody who writes a book and puts into the Kindle store using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is a publisher.

Prior to e-books gaining popularity after the introduction of the Kindle in 2007, there was a lot of investment involved in publishing a book. Very few entities had the resources, and the access to distribution (connections with and acceptance by brick-and mortar bookstores for one…I’m a former manager).

E-books can be published and be equally available for purchase by an individual investing no money as by one of the Big 5 publishers.

That means that the AAP may be decreasingly reflective of what people are purchasing and reading.

To be clear, I’m not saying that reduces their relevancy: the most influential and bestselling books still tend to be published by tradpubs (traditional publishers)…it’s just that you can’t consider the AAP’s data now as being a steady state indicator of the popularity of e-books.

I’m setting that up because if it was a constant  measure, the stat in the headline might be terrifying if you thought it was reflective of reading overall, and concerning if you thought it reflected e-book adoption.

Children/YA is a segment of books intended for children and “Young Adults”. Many of those books are read by adults…The Hunger Games is a good example.

YoY is short for “Year over Year”: in the case, how did 2015 sales compare to 2014 sales?

According to this

Book Business report

and other sources, overall book sales were down YoY, and trade books (the kind you would have bought in a bookstore…not tetbooks and such) were up slightly.

Reported e-book sales were down, with children’s/YA’s sales down by close to half.

According to a graph in the article, it looks like paperback/mass market book rose more in dollars than e-books dropped.

What’s happening here? Are e-books a failed experiment?

I certainly don’t think so.😉

My guess is that, especially young adult, e-book sales are market shifting to independent publishers who don’t report…and perhaps more importantly, to subsers (subscription services), including Amazon’s own

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Certainly, when I was a “young adult”, KU would have been terrific for me. Some YAs are almost obsessive readers…they want to read a lot of books. That doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t get some books outside of KU, but you could read ten books a week at a manageable cost. My record is 3 1/2 novels in a day.😉

For young children, Amazon continues to improve FreeTime Unlimited. It might not seem like e-books are a good fit for young children, but they can certainly be one element.

I don’t want to take too much away from the Book Business article (I recommend you read it), but I do want to point out one other thing.

Downloaded audiobooks are way up.

While this may be a coincidence, that has tended to be the case since text-to-speech (TTS) was introduced in the Kindle 2.

Publishers blocked TTS access** after influencing Amazon to give them that option…one argument has been, presumably, that the presence of TTS competes with the sale of audiobooks.

I’ve suggested that it may do the opposite…that TTS may accustom people to listening to books, even though the experiences of listening to an audiobook or TTS are quite different.

There may be other factors. I’m sure a lot more people listen to audiobooks because of their inclusion in KU…but I don’t think those listens will count as sales of downloadable audiobooks (although I’m not sure).

Still, I think it’s hard to argue that TTS has significantly hurt audiobook sales.

My intuition is that children and young adults are reading more than they were five years ago…it’s just not being reported to AAP as much.

Bonus note: Amazon financials call is today (4/28) a 5:00 PM Eastern:

Webcast link

I’ll report on that later.

Bonus deal: the Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*) is $5 off (which makes it $34.99 for it without a voice remote, $44.99 with one). Without a voice remote (and using the free app), this is the least expensive way to get the Alexa Voice Service, most associated with the Echo. They are doing this to celebrate 100,000 reviews and it is for a limited time.  Makes a great gift…

What do you think? Have e-book sales peaked? Is this one year just a fluke, because there wasn’t a new breakout Young Adult series in 2015? Is there a difference in appropriateness for e-books for Young Adults and children versus adults? What is the role of the AAP in the future? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :)

** A Kindle/Fire with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

2 Responses to “AAP-reporting publishers losing children/YA e-book sales: down 43.3% YoY”

  1. Tom Semple Says:

    Only part (probably less than half) of Audible’s sales are to Amazon customers. Most of the audiobooks sold through iTunes are provided by Audible, for example. The Audible apps are by and large better than what you find on Fire devices, and new features like Audible Channels and Audio Clips are only available via the apps loaded onto non-Amazon devices. So I don’t see their growth as driven by Kindle-facing features like Whispersync for Voice, KU, and Immersion Reading (though to be sure that ain’t nothing).

    As far as the decline in children’s ebooks, one article cited the difficulty of converting illustrated books (PDF-to-press) to ePub format. Amazon has made it very easy to convert a press-ready PDF to a Kindle fixed-layout format, but it is extremely limited compared to ePub fixed layout, which was supposed to leverage HTML skills but in practice getting it to look good has to be done algorithmic-ally with tools like InDesign. It’s a lot more work, and given the variety of devices and ecosystems one has to target (different screen resolutions, aspect ratios etc., different implementations of ePub), the work has to be done more than once. So there’s probably something to that.

    But I think you are quite right that the AAP fishing net is allowing the small fry to slip through undetected (well that’s my metaphor but you are welcome to use it).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      On your first point: quite right.🙂 Audible was already huge when Amazon bought it seven or eight years ago…and around the same time, I think, that Amazon bought Brilliance Audio. However, I do think Amazon is a very large distribution channel for audiobooks…which means Audible.😉

      It certainly may be difficult to convert children’s books…is the idea here that people did buy them, weren’t satisfied, so half of them didn’t buy a children’s e-book the following year? Perhaps. Or is the suggestion that so many fewer were produced, due to the difficulty, that there weren’t enough available to match the demand? Again, perhaps.🙂 I do think that subsers have also had an impact…hard to measure, though.

      There are so many more small fry than there used to be! Statistically insignificant ten years ago, now, I would think, the majority of e-book sales.

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