Book Sales Statistics
Self Publishing Blog
Copyright 2012 by Morris Rosenthal
All Rights Reserved
Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Book Store Sales Numbers Annual Update.
The following current year information about book sales is taken from the annual reports, SEC filings and company press releases for the full year from Barnes&Noble, Borders, Amazon.com, and BN.com. International sales numbers for Borders and Amazon not included. Amazon is now the biggest book retailer, both in North America and overseas, Borders went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 and announced on July 18. 2011 they would close their remaining stores. Full year 2011 sales statistics won't be available until Barnes & Noble reports, normally in May or June. Note that government reported sales for book retailers hit it's lowest level since 2002, and adjusted for inflation (graph below) are down 23% since 2004.
The graph above is my attempt to show the effect of book price inflation on the sales of book stores.
The 2012 update is now in progress with Amazon's 2011 report. B&N filed their 2011 annual statement on 7/27 without breaking out the retail stores from the college stores and BN.com, haven't decided what to do with it yet.
Barnes&Noble now integrates the college bookstore sales with the retail chain, making year on year comparisons irrelevant.
The statistics show that book sales through retailers fell in 2010, and overall bookstore sales have been treading water since 2003 according to the government (table below).The combined total for media sales (mainly books) of the Barnes&Noble and Borders chains plus Amazon North America and BN.com was $14.4 billion, with all the gain coming from online sales. These sums include a couple billion dollars worth of DVD's, CD's, coffee and brownies that aren't publicly broken out of the numbers. Barnes and Noble pointed out years ago in a conference call that "most" of their business is in stable backlist sales, and their most valuable asset is their real estate. They are trying to create new book selling real estate with their Nook eBook reader, and claim their share of the eBook market is now greater than their share of the printed book market. The decline in Borders North American sales accelerated in 2010 as they moved into bankruptcy. Borders failed to cut a deal with creditors and has closed up shop for good. Amazon media sales grew at a healthy pace, thanks to Kindle and Prime. Amazon got serious about ebooks again in 2007 with the release of their Kindle reader, now over 500,000+ titles and with new Kindle readers and titles selling rapidly.
The $15.66 billion estimated by the US Census Bureau in their 2010 retail book sales statistics also includes the other non-book goods sold by those retailers, but doesn't include Amazon and other mail-order sellers. The $15.66 billion figure is a good $10 billion lower than total book sales estimates from various industry surveys, but those surveys include both mass merchandisers, such as Walmarts and supermarkets, where a relatively limited selection of titles are sold, the Elhi (Elementary through High School) market for textbooks, which accounts for approximately $5 billion in sales per year, and book clubs. With specialty religion bookshops accounting for at least another billion in sales a year, and several billion dollars in professional books being sold through nontraditional channels, it's apparent that there isn't a huge slice of pie left over for the general indy booksellers by anybody's math.
Within the Barnes&Noble and Borders chains, book sales are falling at their small stores (B. Dalton and Waldenbooks) which are being shut down and replaced with superstores. In 2005, Amazon bought BookSurge LLC, an aggressive POD company whose performance had hitherto been limited by their lack of access to Amazon. They don't break out Booksurge in their annual report, and in 2009, rolled BookSurge into CreateSpace, another self publishing acquisition. Amazon stopped selling ebooks through their International sites in 2005 and dropped the Lightning Source ebooks that made up most of their North American ebook sales in 2006. Amazon has also stopped drop shipping books from Ingram, a relationship that made their early claims to having the biggest selection in the world feasible. Google announced they would start selling ebooks in 2006 but never did, 2011 is Google's new target date for selling eBooks. Amazon's international media sales are now greater than their North America sales and are greater than Borders and Barnes&Nobles North American sales combined.
Amazon MarketPlace (Third Party Sales) reached 40% of Amazon item sales in the 2nd quarter of 2012. That's easily over a hundred million of sales, every one producing a profit, and Amazon's percentage on MarketPlace sales is pretty stiff for most items, and may also including listing and closing fees. A lot of Amazon's growth is coming from Kindle and electronics, and Amazon's spending on "Technology and Content" was $2.91 billion in 2011, and I suspect most of that was spent on subsidizing Kindle eBooks (selling for less than cost or giving away), plus free Prime movies.
I updated all of the older data using the new Census Bureau database tool in April 2011. The government has a bad habit of changing historical numbers after the fact (after accounting for preliminary vs "final" data) but you can use the Internet Archive to view previous years and versions of this page with the original numbers.
Included in survey:
4512111 Book Stores, General
Establishments primarily engaged in retailing a general line of new books. These establishments may also sell stationery and related items, second-hand books, and magazines.
4512112 Specialty Book Stores
Establishments primarily engaged in retailing specialty books, such as general reference, religious, and professional books.
4512113 College Book Stores
Establishments primarily engaged in retailing textbooks, generally on the college level. Most of these establishments are located on or near college campuses, and some sell more apparel than books. These establishments may also offer second-hand textbooks. School book stores, other than college, are included in this industry.