2010 Book and E-Book Sales Data for the United States

by John Soares on February 16, 2011

Freelance writers, book authors, and creators of information products should pay attention to book sales. The data for both print books and e-books tells us what consumers are paying for and gives indications of future trends, trends we can take advantage of.

2010 Sales Figures for Books and E-books

The Association of American Publishers provides monthly statistics on sales figures. The latest report includes information for all of 2010. Here’s the AAP press release:

AAP Publishers Report Strong Growth in Year-to-Year, Year-End Book Sales

$11.67 Billion Sales Mark +3.6 Percent Increase vs Calendar Year 2009,

December Sales Rise +2.4 Percent;

E-book Sales Continue to Break Records with +164.4 Percent Gains for 2010

New York, NY, February 16, 2011— US publishers’ book sales across all platforms increased +2.4 percent in December 2010 vs December 2009 and +3.6 percent for the full year vs 2009, it was reported today by the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

Virtually every book publishing category showed growth in one or both comparisons, with the phenomenal popularity of E-books continuing.

“As more formats have evolved and are served by the publishing community, consumers have more choices. These strong sales numbers reflect the efforts of AAP publishers and the response of book audiences,” said Tom Allen, President and CEO, AAP.

Among the highlights*:

• Total sales for December 2010 were strong, showing a +2.4 percent gain vs December 2009 ($1.58 Billion vs $1.54B).

• Total sales for calendar year 2010 also jumped +3.6 percent vs calendar year 2009 ($11.67B vs $11.25B)

• E-books grew a dramatic +164.8 percent in December 2010 vs the previous year ($49.5 Million vs $18.7M). In the AAP’s ninth year of tracking this category, E-books once again increased significantly on an annual basis, up +164.4 percent for 2010 vs 2009 ($441.3M vs $166.9M). E-book sales represented 8.32 percent of the trade book market in 2010 vs 3.20 percent the previous year. A chart tracking nine years of E-book sales is included below.

• Books on other digital platforms also experienced healthy sales growth. For December 2010, Downloaded Audio Books increased +56.7 percent to $8.9M and Physical Audio Books increased +34.5 percent to $15.8M. For the calendar year, Downloaded Audio Books sales rose by +38.8 percent to $81.9M (vs $59.0M in 2009), while Physical Audio Books fell 6.3 percent, at $137.3M for 2010 vs $146.5M for the previous year.

• Children’s book categories saw higher sales in December 2010 vs the year before: Children’s/Young Adults Paperbacks were up +4.5 percent (to $48.9M) and Hardcover Children’s/Young Adults grew +0.2 percent (to $59.7M). Year vs year sales of children’s books fell somewhat; the former decreased 5.7 percent (to $546.6M) and the latter declined 9.5 percent (to $694.3M).

• All three Adult book categories also showed gains vs December 2009: Adult Hardcover was up +23.1 percent (to $148.2M), Adult Paperback grew by +4.5 percent (to $127.6M) and Adult Mass Market rose by +14.6 percent (to $57.1M). The categories fell slightly for 2010 vs calendar year 2009 with Hardbacks sales at $1.57B vs $1.65B in 2009 (-5.1 percent); Paperbacks reaching $1.38B vs $1.41B in 2009 (-2.0 percent) and Mass Market at $673.5M for 2010 vs $718.9M (-6.3 percent).

• Educational book sales saw full year-to-year increases: Higher Education grew +7.8 percent in 2010 (to $4.58B) and K-12 Elementary/High School posted a +3.2 percent gain (to $3.59B). K-12 El/Hi also hit a +1.4 percent increase for December 2010 (to $147.0M) while Higher Education reached $890.2M for December (-3.6 percent).

• Sales of University Press Hardcover books decreased 8.2 percent in December (to $6.0M) with a 0.5 percent decline for 2010 ($57.8M). University Press Paperbacks grew for 2010 by +1.3 percent (to $61.6M) and fell 2.5 percent for December ($8.9M).

• Professional books sales increased +5.0 percent for 2010 over 2009 (to $812.9M); for December, they fell 3.5 percent (to $108.9M).

• Religious Books showed 0.5 percent decline for 2010 vs 2009 (at $585.4M) and -11.8 percent for December ($49.9M).

*All figures cited above are domestic net sales.

Analyzing the 2010 Book and E-Book Sales Data

The Print Book Isn’t Dead

Note that total sales of print books for 2010 was approximately the same as sales for 2009 when sales of e-books are subtracted. This shows that there is still strong demand for physical books.

E-Books Sales Show Strong Growth

Sales increased 164% to $441.3 million year over year. That’s a lot of money, and it shows that there’s potential for authors to make serious cash from e-book sales. And note that these figures are for sales from mainstream textbook publishers: they don’t take into account all the information product e-books sold by individual entrepreneurs from individual sites. This site and the products I sell are just one example, and there are tens of thousands of other writers selling their own e-books. (Note: see my post on why traditional publishers should pay a 50% royalty on e-books.)

Educational Textbook Sales Are Also Strong

I’m a freelance writer who creates supplements and ancillaries for college textbooks, so it’s good news for me and other freelance writers in the same niche. More sales of textbooks means more profits, which means more money to pay us.

Your Take?

What stands out for you in this data? How can you take advantage of these trends? Have you written books? Are you writing a book or an e-book right now? Share!

Freelance writers who specialize make much more money than those who don't. My short and focused course Find Your Freelance Writing Niches: Make More Money for Less Work guides you through all the key steps you need to take to discover the specialties that will take your freelance writing income to a much higher level. Click here for all the details.

    { 45 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Eric Soares February 16, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    The ebook stats look good! A 164% growth rate isn’t bad! My current kayaking book CONFESSIONS OF A WAVE WARRIOR will eventually be offered as an ebook. I say go with media that work. Obviously, e-books are going up, up, up!

    Reply

    2 John Soares February 16, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Ebook sales are way up, but they are still only a small fraction of the total sales of print books. However, as I pointed out, those stats don’t measure people selling print and electronic versions of self-published books.

    Eric, I think you would be very smart to offer a digital version of Confessions of a Wave Warrior. Many sea kayakers live in other countries, which makes shipping costs and shipping time a potential factor in deciding whether or not to buy the actual book.
    John Soares recently posted…Why Publishers Should Pay a 50-Percent Royalty on E-Books

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    3 Yolanda February 16, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Twitter: @yolandafacio

    So why the Border’s bankruptcy? I’m sad every time I think that physical books are dying because I just can’t see enjoying them any other way!

    Reply

    4 John Soares February 16, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    Yolanda, there many reasons for the Borders bankruptcy. Here are three:

    1. Amazon has taken a huge chunk of the print book market, meaning more pressure on brick-and-mortar stores.

    2. Borders was too slow to get on the digital books bandwagon.

    3. Borders has too many stores.

    Borders will reemerge from bankruptcy with fewer stores, but I still think they are likely doomed in the long run.
    John Soares recently posted…Why Freelance Writers Should Specialize

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    5 Patricia@lavenderoils February 16, 2011 at 6:43 PM

    Twitter: @lavenderuses

    Hi John

    Thanks for the information. Have a friend who is a newbie with online marketing and blogging. Your site is on the list of those I have recommended for him to visit.

    He writes children’s books and I see sales are up with these which is good news. Will send him across to see the stats. Thanks for sharing.

    And I hope the Borders store in Perth doesn’t get closed down. One of my favs for visiting and I still prefer reading physical books.

    Patricia Perth Australia
    Patricia@lavenderoils recently posted…A Gardener’s Guide to Growing a Business

    Reply

    6 John Soares February 17, 2011 at 6:15 AM

    Patricia, writing children’s books is a tough market to crack. I actually wrote a couple of manuscripts and shopped them to publishers and agents in the 1990s. I had a couple of publishers interested, but in the end they didn’t bite.
    John Soares recently posted…What to Do If You Take a Blogging Break

    Reply

    7 John Soares February 17, 2011 at 6:20 AM

    My sweetie and I house-sat in the Santa Cruz area of northern California for several weeks over Christmas. I really liked the downtown Borders in Santa Cruz, and it’s scheduled to be closed.

    Check the list of Borders store closings here.
    John Soares recently posted…How I Improved My Sales Page and Increased Conversion Rates for My E-Book

    Reply

    8 Juli Monroe February 17, 2011 at 6:04 AM

    Twitter: @1to1Discovery

    By any chance do you have a breakdown on fiction vs nonfiction. Someone told me yesterday that nonfiction is outselling fiction. And do you have any breakdown on that by digital and paper. Just curious. Thanks!
    Juli Monroe recently posted…Who To Refer

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    9 John Soares February 17, 2011 at 6:25 AM

    Juli, I don’t have the breakdown for that, but I’m sure the numbers are out there. The Association of American Publishers didn’t break it down that far.
    John Soares recently posted…Get Permission to Use Copyrighted Photos

    Reply

    10 Anne Waymn February 17, 2011 at 9:30 AM

    Twitter: @annewayman

    John, I second your advice to Eric re getting his wave running book in ebook form asap. I’ve had a self-published book out there for ages (www.powerfullyrecovered.com) available as both paper and ebook. For a variety of reasons I can’t prove it, but I strongly believe the ebook has actually supported the paperback sales.

    As always, the trick is marketing, but the long tail potential is enormous.

    Thanks for putting these numbers together.
    Anne Waymn recently posted…Freelance Writing Jobs For Thursday- February 17- 2011

    Reply

    11 John Soares February 17, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Anne, e-books provide instant access to information. In Eric’s case, easily half his potential audience lives in Europe, Asia, Australia, and other places. Some of these people may not buy the physical book because they don’t want to pay shipping, and they don’t want to wait for one to several weeks for the book to arrive.

    I’ll keep working on him. (He’s my brother…)
    John Soares recently posted…Why Publishers Should Pay a 50-Percent Royalty on E-Books

    Reply

    12 Anne Waymn February 18, 2011 at 8:16 AM

    Twitter: @annewayman

    lol, I did notice the last names in common.
    Anne Waymn recently posted…Freelance Writing Jobs For Thursday- February 17- 2011

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    13 Delena Silverfox@YouLoveCoupons February 17, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    Twitter: @delenasilverfox

    I think I mentioned him in a previous comment here (or maybe just thought about it really hard, lol) but again, Randy Ingermanson has been talking for years about getting on the ebook bandwagon. It’s definitely the wave of the very near future, especially if the Kindle can hold as many books as the reviews say.

    And I’m sure we’ll soon see other reading devices come out that are competitive with Kindle. Ebooks are easy to find, convenient to buy, and instantly accessible.

    Delena
    Delena Silverfox@YouLoveCoupons recently posted…Hostgator Coupon Code

    Reply

    14 John Soares February 18, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    Delena, I think we’ll see major leaps in e-book reader technology over the next few years. All writers should be thinking about how they can sell electronic versions of their works. I know I am.
    John Soares recently posted…Why I Won’t Buy Demand Media Stock

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    15 Anne Sales @ Coupon Codes February 18, 2011 at 4:14 AM

    I have been dreaming of writing a book. Now with eBooks becoming popularly in demand the desire gets even more intensified. However, the target audience is what I’m concerned now. What kind of topic is trending and I must act fast. Or I must write something that will not get obsolete even after a decade or more. You know what I mean?
    Anne Sales @ Coupon Codes recently posted…GotoMeeting Promo Code

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    16 John Soares February 18, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Anne, I’d be careful about writing about trending topics. Unless you spot the trend early and already have a large potential market you can reach, you could wind up wasting your time.
    John Soares recently posted…Why Freelance Writers Should Specialize

    Reply

    17 Anne Sales @ Coupon Codes February 27, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    You have a point. I believe DIY topics will always be useful. I’ve got to learn how to fix that pipe without calling the plumber. :D
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    18 TJ McDowell February 18, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    I keep wanting to write an e-book when I get time =) I’m sure that’s how lots of other professionals feel too. There just isn’t enough time in the day. I guess that’s probably good though, so the e-book publisher market isn’t saturated with more sellers than buyers.
    TJ McDowell recently posted…UPS – Stay Up When The Power Is Down

    Reply

    19 John Soares February 19, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    TJ, not everyone should write an e-book. It may not be a good investment of your time, depending on your interests, your market, how much time you have to devote to marketing the e-book, etc.

    I know that many people spend many weeks writing an e-book that hardly sells at all, although a few will make decent to great money.
    John Soares recently posted…What’s the Best Use of Your Time Right Now

    Reply

    20 eric February 18, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    Twitter: @thinkmarketact

    Hey – good post. I am thinking about doing an ebook for the content on my recent blog. Easier than a hard cover i would imagine. My GF is a published author and when the book title is the same she sells more ebooks than hardcover.
    eric recently posted…Track My Online Presence – Week 2

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    21 John Soares February 19, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    Eric, please see what I said to TJ just above your comment.

    Yes, e-books are much easier to produce than an actual print book. Once you have the book looking good in Word, for example, free software can convert it to a PDF ebook within one minute.
    John Soares recently posted…Why Publishers Should Pay a 50-Percent Royalty on E-Books

    Reply

    22 farouk February 20, 2011 at 1:59 AM

    very useful numbers
    thanks for collecting them in one post

    Reply

    23 Christy February 23, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    Twitter: @dearestdreams

    Thanks for pulling these numbers. What a fascinating time to be an unpublished author. I have plans to publish a non-fiction book this summer and run with it. Thanks for the stats.

    Reply

    24 John Soares February 23, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    Good luck with the book Christy. Do you plan to find a mainstream publisher or do you plan to publish it yourself?
    John Soares recently posted…How to Succeed at Co-Authoring

    Reply

    25 Christy February 23, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    Twitter: @dearestdreams

    John,
    I plan to publish it myself. It is in the same subject area as the novels I am writing-Irish dance. I plan to go traditional with my novels if I can. I figure that a self-published non-fiction e-book (slow down with the hyphens!) will only be a help to my platform and will be a fun experiment in this changing industry.
    Christy recently posted…Rapunzels Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale- Illustrated by Nathan Hale

    Reply

    26 John Soares February 23, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    Having a quality book about your area of expertise will really help your credibility in your field. It will also show potential publishers of your fiction that you know what you’re talking about.
    John Soares recently posted…How I Improved My Sales Page and Increased Conversion Rates for My E-Book

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    27 Steve Emmett March 24, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    Twitter: @chukkie58

    The growth of Ebooks is surely unstoppable. I am a total convert to them and read paper books as second best now. But it remains hard for new authors to get their books seen.

    Reply

    28 Marlee March 27, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Twitter: @MARLdblE

    Hey John!
    Thanks for compiling this data! It’s awesome and motivating. I’ve always wondered what the real figures were like in this industry. I very much appreciate you publishing this post!

    Thanks again!
    Marlee recently posted…Where Can I Get A Website On A Dime- What Camera Do You Use- and More

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    29 John Soares March 27, 2011 at 5:52 PM

    Glad it helped you out Marlee. It’s always good to have hard data.
    John Soares recently posted…Just Released — The Second Edition of My Writing College Textbook Supplements E-Book

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    30 Frank August 18, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    John, I’ve been selling hardcover books online for several years. It’s strictly supplemental income. I’m not ready to quit my day job. However, given the ever-growing popularity of e-books, should I soon consider selling something other than books online? Can I expect growing sales or am I merely selling an increasingly obsolete product?

    Reply

    31 John Soares August 18, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    Two thoughts Frank:

    1. Are you continuing to sell your hardcover books at the same rate now as in the past?

    2. Can you easily convert the hardcover books to digital format and offer customers the option of purchasing them as e-books?
    John Soares recently posted…8 Ways to Increase the Joy of Writing

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    32 Aaron Hennessy August 22, 2011 at 2:47 AM

    Hello John,

    Do you have the figures for the Adult fiction market within the UK and Europe? I am a new author about to self publish my book and run it like a business. Do you have any advice for me if possible?

    Thanks,

    Aaron Hennessy

    P:S- found the blog a very interesting read and will continue to follow

    Reply

    33 National seo September 23, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    Well, I believe that Ebooks will, with time, take more and more market space, as net and technology are becoming even more accessible in some parts of the world. What once ordinary printing press did to book printing, ebooks will do to ordinary paper distribution. Of course I doubt that hard editions will be completely suppressed like old monastery manuscripts but on a general level book trade will migrate more and more to ebooks.
    National seo recently posted…Welcome to National SEO’s Blog

    Reply

    34 Debra Hardy October 7, 2011 at 1:07 AM

    Twitter: @soycandlelady2

    Do you have statistics on top sites to sell eBooks on? Or did I miss the information. Thanks for all your great advice.

    Reply

    35 John Soares October 7, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    Debra, that was not the specific focus of this post. However, Amazon.com is the biggest seller of e-books.
    John Soares recently posted…Life Isn’t Fair: On Freelance Writers Who Write For Free or Low Fees

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    36 Andrew Newman October 10, 2011 at 4:40 AM

    Hi John,

    do you have any breakdown for self/help or Mind/body/spirit categories?
    I was hoping i’d stumble across a world map online with sales represented by country/ by genre/ by population.

    I may be a few years ahead of the information cross-referencing that the web is facilitating

    Andrew

    Reply

    37 Peter Mendel October 17, 2011 at 9:08 PM

    I can’t read your Web site properly because of the hovering “leftcontainerbox”. It overlaps the left-aligned text by a centimeter or so.

    Reply

    38 John Soares October 18, 2011 at 6:32 AM

    Sorry about that Peter. It’s from one of two causes: either your monitor resolution is too low or you’ve magnified the text on screen.
    John Soares recently posted…Why Writers Must Avoid Perfectionism

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    39 Bjoern Bohnenkamp October 19, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    Dear John,

    do you know if there are any numbers for the global publishing industry?

    Best regards! Björn

    Reply

    40 John Soares October 20, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    Hello Bjorn. I don’t have that data, please let us know if you do find it.
    John Soares recently posted…How to Minimize Interruptions So You Can Get Your Writing Done

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    41 Joan McGrath October 26, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    I’m writing a criticism of Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie, and would like to refer to the popular success (or lack of it) by the number of books sold. Is that information available to the public? Do you know where I might find that information? thank you, Joan

    Reply

    42 John Soares October 26, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    Joan, I don’t think such information is easily available to the public, but perhaps someone else can chime in on this.

    I did find this in a Google search: http://www.edrants.com/clowing-around-with-slim-returns/
    John Soares recently posted…My Review of Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den Membership Site

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    43 yoram November 5, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    Hi John, great info thanks.

    Do you have stat on how many e-books for children are being sold?

    thanks,

    Yoram

    Reply

    44 Katie December 14, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    Quick question. What did you see in teen fiction trends in sales and genres? Were these changes evident? Did young adult fiction sales increase or decrease during 2010?

    Reply

    45 Gerry Bogan September 24, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    Twitter: @gerrybogan

    Great information here. I am currently at the mid point of writing book #3 (fiction thriller) and self publishing from the beginning. When I started writing the POD companies wanted extreme amounts to print a book so I gravitated toward digital, starting with Smashwords. The outlines for two ‘self help/get off your butt’ books sit in my desk drawer awaiting their turn in the spotlight, but I suspect that changing genre might be a fatal mistake. Any input on changing? Thanks!!

    Reply

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