Let’s Call 2008’s Book Market Stable With Modest Declines

By Neal Comment

The Association of American Publishers released its final stats on book sales in 2008 yesterday, and after several months of decline, holiday shopping actually brought a nice increase to December sales, which were up 9.7 percent over the previous year. That boost, however, was only enough to hold the year-long slippage down to a 2.4 percent decline. In the print world, the biggest winner for the month was the children’s market, as hardcover sales jumped 124.6 percent and paperbacks moved forward 37 percent; the children’s paperback market over the last twelve months also showed a 6.4 percent improvement over 2007—the hardcover market dropped by 12.4 percent, but that was in a post-Potter year.

(If anybody has the data and wants to do the math to show us how 2008’s kidlit hardcover sales would compare to a Potter-less 2007, that would be awesome.)

Adult hardcover sales were down 10.3 percent in December and down 13 percent for the year, but adult paperbacks saw a 12.5 percent increase in sales for the month and a 3.6 percent increase for the year. Adult mass market sales, though, are reported as down 3.0 percent for the year, and we can’t help but wonder if that has anything to do with the 68.4 percent increase in electronic book sales in 2008 and certain genre reading tastes. (That’s pure speculation, though, on our part.)

The U.S. Census Bureau also releases its monthly stats on bookstore sales yesterday, which as usual tell a slightly different story than the AAP numbers. The bookstore stats show a 4.7 percent drop in December sales—which is still slightly less worse than the performance of the overall retail sector—and a yearlong decline in sales of less than one percent, with a final tally for 2008 of $16.93 billion.