The latest BookStats report on U.S. publishing in 2013, BookStats Volume 4,”the annual statistical survey of publishing’s size and scope,” has some very interesting data points. For one, trade publishing isn’t showing much hurt from digital disruption: 2013 sustained 2012’s “strongest year in publishing’s recent history” with “only a slight drop in revenue and units vs 2012 while numbers continued to grow at the same pace vs earlier year,” delivering $27.01 billion in net revenue for 2013 for the entire U.S. publishing sector, off 2.59 billion in units. Every industry should get disrupted this good.
Furthermore, “eBooks hit a record high in 2013,” although ebook sales revenue remained fairly flat versus 2012. According to further reporting of the BookStats data, revenues from combined ebook sales and online sales of physical books (BookStats’ Online Retail category) have now passed sales through traditional channels, at $7.54 billion versus $7.12 billion. “For 2013, publisher revenue from Online Retail now eclipses publisher revenue from all brick-and-mortar channels combined,” declares BookStats. “Online Retail now represents 35.4% of all Trade publisher revenue.”
BookStats “is co-produced by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group,” with a sample size of 1616 publishers, so it looks pretty authoritative and impartial. And what it indicates is that publishers are not only learning to survive and thrive perfectly well in the new book market, but are also going to move their efforts increasingly towards BookStats’ Online Retail sales channels in future. This may leave bricks-and-mortar bookstores bereft of their Big Media defenders, but Big Publishing’s public-interest defense of its old restrictive practices always came across as pretty bogus anyway. Bookstores need a better class of ally.
As for self-publishing, “revenue from any self-published book registered with a US commercial book identifier number (an ISBN) is included in the extrapolation and methodology of the report,” declares Book Stats. So self-published authors may have helped skew the revenue totals towards Online Retail. But the strong performance of the trade sector –”covering general consumer fiction and non-fiction” – with $14.63 billion in net revenue and 2.32 billion in volume, also suggests that self-publishing is a trend that publishers are finding it very easy to live with.