Disappointing 2015 Sales Send Publishers in New Directions

Poor Book Sales Have Led Publishers to Reinvent the Book

Poor Book Sales Have Led Publishers to Reinvent the Book

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has released its 2015 final sales estimates, disappointing book publishers. Total industry sales dropped by .6 percent between 2014 and 2015, showing another year-over-year drop. Even though unit sales rose, overall profits have dropped.

Ebooks showed sharply declining revenue, down to $2.84 billion in 2015 compared with $3.20 billion in 2014. Overall, print books’ revenue rose, with paperbacks forming the basis of that revenue. Downloadable audiobooks continued their stratospheric climb, with sales that rose by more than 37 percent since 2014.

The AAP derives its figures by combining sales figures of more than one thousand reporting publishing companies. AAP claims that its estimates reflect sales from other publishers as well. Indie book publishers might paint a different picture of the industry, but these figures denote the climate for major publishers’ book sales.

Beyond Books

Industry players, seeing the writing on the wall, have already begun to diversify their offerings, so that they won’t have to rely exclusively on sales of traditional books. Barnes & Noble, the largest retail bookseller in the United States, had already spun out its offerings to include digital media and educational products. In June 2016, the bookseller announced its newly formed partnership with Adaptive Studios, saying that it would exclusively offer print titles of Adaptive Books.

Adaptive Studios is a content creator and publisher that purchases intellectual property like screenplay scripts that have never been produced and adjusts the content before reintroducing it in another form. It repurposes the intellectual property as films, digital series, TV shows, and books. With this partnership, Barnes & Noble shows its willingness to combine the publishing world with the world of entertainment, producing unique content to broaden its audience.

Island Publishers, a publishing house that focuses on environmental issues, has also expanded its offerings to become less dependent on traditional books sales. In 2015, it began to produce content outside the book arena, turning out webinars, magazine articles, opinion pieces, and professional education courses. Through its new products, particularly those displayed on digital platforms, Island Publishers hopes to engage with its audience more deeply. A greater range of products grants the publisher more entry points into its readers’ consciousness.

Advancing Audiobooks

The rise of ebooks has not escaped industry insiders. One company jumping on the ebook bandwagon is eMusic, an online, subscription-based music and audiobook store. In July 2016, eMusic announced the launch of eStories, an upgraded audiobook service. EMusic has partnered with Findaway, the industry’s largest B2B audiobook delivery platform, to offer books from all the Big 5 publishers.

Although it will have to compete with established audiobook subscription services, eStories promises to offer a monthly plan that’s priced 20 percent lower than those of other services, along with the promise of unlimited cloud storage and the ability to sync multiple devices.

Falling book sales figures have propelled the industry to innovate and create new products. Readers stand to benefit from the new inventions that have been cropping up.

Gilan Gertz is Content Marketing Manager at GreenPoint Global, a tri-continental outsourcing company. For the past six years, she has researched and written about a variety of topics for GreenPoint Global's online Publishing, Health-Care, and Education Divisions. Previously, she worked as a psychotherapist in outpatient settings. Gilan has a BA from Barnard College and a Master of Social Work degree from Yeshiva University.

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