Book Printing Outlook : Riding the Higher Ed Wave

Top 5 Book Printers in the 2011 Top 400 ranking. (Double click chart to enlarge.)

Judging the health of the book publishing industry is a lot like viewing a national weather map. The happy sun icon is shown here and there, but some angry clouds are clustered in certain areas. And in an era where the electronic reader is bludgeoning ink on paper—by mainstream media accounts, that is—studies show that readership is growing on all fronts.

Simply put, the book map is too large to characterize with sweeping generalizations.

Popular perception has the e-book methodically stripping away market share from every publishing segment, but that is simply not the case. The e-reader certainly came into its own during 2011, and virtual books went flying off virtual shelves in a post-holiday 2010 downloading spree. But, according to a study titled “BookStats,” conducted by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), a lion’s share of the growth is relegated to the trade market, particularly adult fiction.

The study, released in August, is billed as the most comprehensive in the history of the U.S. book publishing industry. It spans the period of 2008-2010. It garnered data from nearly 2,000 publishers, databases and other resources in the areas of trade, el-hi, higher education, professional and scholarly. Among its findings:

Publisher net sales rose 5.6 percent (to $27.94 billion) between 2008 and 2010. Unit sales increased 4.1 percent during the time frame.

The trade market saw a 5.8 percent increase to $13.94 billion since 2008, a figure that is certain to spike, given the 2011 “significant explosion in e-book sales,” notes AAP’s Andi Sporkin. Both adult fiction and juvenile segments experienced consistent annual gains.

E-book growth has been monumental; it represented just 0.6 percent of the trade market share in 2008, a figure that ballooned to 6.4 percent in 2010. Unit sales grew 1,039.6 percent during the three-year period. In adult fiction, e-books now account for 13.6 percent of the net revenue market share.

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