23 Gripping Book Industry Statistics [2022]: Facts About The US Book Industry

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 4, 2022

Research Summary. From riveting romance novels to the latest political science theories, the U.S. book industry plays a massive role in education, entertainment, and more. After extensive research, our data analysis team concluded:

  • The U.S. book industry made $25.93 billion in revenue in 2020

  • Including self-published and commercially published, over 4 million new books were published in 2019.

  • Children’s fiction is the most popular genre of books sold, achieving over 1 billion books sold in 2020.

  • In the U.S., approximately 1,700 independent bookselling companies are operating 4,100 stores.

  • Total U.S. book sales hit 942 million units in 2020 across print and eBook sales — a 9% increase from 2019.

us book publishing market size over time
US Book Industry Stats: $25.93 billion annual revenue 4+ million books published each year 10,800 bookstores
Book Industry Statistics by: Print vs. eBook | Audiobook | Textbook | Trends

General U.S. Book Industry Statistics

Despite a substantial increase in the number of books published, the number of books sold in the U.S. remains stagnant. No doubt, the book industry struggles to compete with other mediums. Here are the facts:

  1. As of 2020, 1.7 million new books were self-published in the U.S.

    That’s an increase of 264% within the past five years and makes up 43% of the total new books published.

  2. self published books over time

  3. Religious books and bibles are the most popular adult genre, with 21.2 million sold.

    While the second most popular is general adult fiction, which sold 20.4 million units in 2019.

  4. Penguin Random House is the largest book publisher in the U.S., earning $3.3 billion in revenue (2019).

    And this publisher is one of the five other publishers known as the “big five.” Publishers in the “big five” other than Penguin Random House include Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan.

  5. big four publishers by revenue

  6. As of 2019, the U.S. trade book publishing industry had $16.23 billion in net revenue.

    A number that has been slowly creeping up since 2013. For example, net revenue for the trade book publishing industry increased by 0.4% from 2018-2019.

  7. In the U.S, the best-selling book of 2020 was ‘The Promised Land’ by former U.S. president Barack Obama.

    The book sold 2.57 million copies in 2020, 1.27 million more copies than the next runner-up: ‘Midnight Sun’ by Stephenie Meyer.

  8. As of 2021, there are 68,670 people employed in the Book Publishing industry and 44,240 writers.

    And the number of people employed has increased slightly from 2016-2021, at a rate of 1.4%.

  9. Revenue from consumer books grw by 6% in 2020, while PreK-12 revenue dropped by 12.3%.

    It’s no surprise that 2020 was a time when consumers were clamoring for any form of entertainment while stuck inside. It’s equally unsurprising that the sale of school books saw a massive decline, as students across the country spent a significant portion of their school year attending classes from home.

  10. US Book Industry Revenue Change by Category 2019-2020

    Category 2019-2020 Decline/Growth % 2020 Revenue
    Consumer 6% $16.67B
    Higher Educatoin -5.70% $3.1B
    PreK-12 -12.30% $3.84B
    Professional -14.5 $1.68B
    University Presses 2.90% $0.39B

Despite the ever-growing presence of technology, eBook sales still fall far behind that of print. Here are some insights our research uncovered:

  1. eBooks only make up 9% of total Book industry revenue.

    Of the $26 billion in revenue made last year, $22.6 billion came from print books, while only $2.04 billion came from eBooks.

  2. eBooks sold 191 million units in 2020.

    Which was a sharp 12.6% increase over 2019, likely due to the pandemic.

  3. Printed book sales reached 750.89 million units in 2020.

    While printed book sales didn’t rise as much as eBook sales, there was still a substantial 8.2% increase in units sold. That marks the largest uptick in units sold since 2010.

revenue by book type

Audiobook Statistics

Audiobooks have also grown immensely in popularity since their conception in 1932. In fact, despite making up only 10% of book sales, audiobooks are the fastest-growing book type in the industry. According to our research:

  1. 71,000 audiobooks were published in 2020.

    That’s an increase of 39% from 2019, one of the largest upticks of book industry growth within the U.S.

  2. U.S. audiobook revenue reached $1.3 billion in 2020.

    This is an increase of 12% from the year prior and marks the 9th year in a row for double-digit revenue growth.

  3. As of 2021, Audible is the most popular audiobook website.

    And reached sales of $940 million, with a growth rate of 24.5%. Audible also has over 200,000 audiobooks available.

Textbook Statistics

From public schools to college students, textbooks are an important aspect of American education. However, everyone is well aware of the price bloating within this subsection of the book industry. Here’s what we found:

  1. In 2019, the textbook publishing industry made $8.38 billion in revenue.

    This was actually a decrease of 8% from the year prior, which saw a total revenue of $9.13 billion. In fact, the revenue of the textbook publishing industry has been steadily decreasing since 2015, when revenue reached $11.96 billion.

  2. In the U.S., the average textbook costs $84.

    This, while being a decrease from $110 in 2015, still means that the average college student spends $1240.00 on textbooks over 4 years.

  3. Grades 4-6 have the most textbook usage in the classroom, at over 80%.

    And this seems to affect test scores, as 4th-grade students who read the textbook daily as opposed to once a month received 6% higher test scores.

So far, we’ve seen relatively stable growth within the book industry, especially in eBooks and audiobooks. However, is the book industry growing, or has it declined in some areas? Here’s what we found:

  1. In 2021, the U.S. publishing industry only had a CAGR of 1%.

    While this isn’t a direct decline, it’s still very low. However, even a 1% CAGR is still expected to increase industry income by $18.69 billion between 2021-2025.

  2. On the other hand, the digital publishing market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.4% from 2021 to 2028.

    Likely due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the digital publishing market is estimated to grow much more than the overall industry. Theoretically, it should grow from $24.6 million in 2021 to $37.9 million by 2028.

  3. eBook sales increased by 12.6% from 2019-2020.

    Overall, eBook and audiobook sales have increased by a much steeper rate than that of print. The sales of eBooks alone increased 35% more than that of print.

  4. Barnes and Noble’s sales declined by 22.3% in 2021.

    The largest bookseller in the U.S., Barnes and Noble, has seen a steady decline for several years. From 2020-2021, the company has experienced a $382.4 million sales decline.

US Book Publishing Market Size 2012-2019

Year Market Size (In Billions)
2019 $27.8B
2018 $29.3B
2017 $31.2B
2016 $31.3B
2015 $31.3B
2014 $30.5B
2013 $30.6B
2012 $30.9B

US Book Industry FAQ

  1. How much is the US book industry worth?

    The US Book industry is worth $25.93 billion, but this number isn’t split up evenly. eBooks and audiobooks only make up 9% and 10% of the market, respectively, whereas print still dominates the market.

  2. Are books a dying industry?

    No, books are not a dying industry. While the introduction of technology has led many to believe that the book industry is dying, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

    At worst, book sales have only increased in value by 1.4%, but at best, print sales have seen 8.2% growth, and eBook and audiobook sales have seen over 12% growth.

    Plus, more new books are being written now than ever, with 1.7 million self-published books being made in 2020, which is a 264% more than five years prior.

  3. What is the growth rate of the book publishing industry?

    The growth rate of the book publishing industry is estimated to be 2.2% from 2020-2021.

    The growth rate of the book publishing industry is somewhat lower than other aspects of the overall book industry. Currently, the book publishing industry’s market size is expected to increase by 2.2% from 2020-2021.

  4. How many books are sold in the US each year?

    Approximately 900 million books are sold in the US each year. 2020 set a record with 942 million units sold in the US, across both eBook and print editions. That represents a 9% increase from 2019 — if this pace continues, the US will sell over 1 billion books in 2021.

  5. Is Amazon becoming a monopoly in the publishing world?

    Yes, many experts believe that Amazon is approaching de facto monopoly status in the publishing world. Amazon controls up to 80% of all book distribution in the US, and many worry that the company has engaged in anti-competitive and even predatory practices that has left publishers “racing to the bottom.”

    In August of 2020, representatives from the Author’s Guild, the American Association of Publishers, and the American Booksellers Association sent a letter to Congress that expressed their concern over the matter. There was no appreciable response.

Conclusion

Contrary to popular belief, the book industry has seen stable growth within the past five years and is expected to continue growing. For example, print sales increased by 8.2% in 2020, and new self-published books have increased by 264% in the past five years.

eBooks and audiobooks have seen even larger growth, with sales increasing by 12.6% and 12%, respectively. Overall, digital markets are seeing the most growth, even though eBooks and audiobooks combined only make up 19% of the market. This may change, though, as the digital publishing market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.4% from 2021 to 2028.

In conclusion, the book industry is far from being on its deathbed, and it is, in fact growing steadily each year.

References

  1. Statista. “U.S. book industry – statistics facts.” Accessed on August 31, 2021.

  2. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. “The 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing.” Accessed on August 31, 2021.

  3. ProActive Writer. “Which Book Genre Is The Most Popular In 2021?” Accessed on August 31, 2021.

  4. Publisher’s Weekly. “Ranking America’s Largest Publishers.” Accessed on August 31, 2021.

  5. IBISWorld. “Book Publishing in the US – Employment Statistics 2005–2027.” Accessed on August 31, 2021.

  6. CNBC. “Physical books still outsell e-books — and here’s why.” Accessed on August 31, 2021.

  7. Publishing Perspectives. “APA Cites 12-Percent 2020 US Audiobook Revenue Growth.” Accessed on September 1, 2021.

  8. Good E Reader. “Audiobook Trends and Statistics for 2020.” Accessed on September 1, 2021.

  9. Education Data. “Average Cost of College Textbooks.” Accessed on September 1, 2021.

  10. Academic Authors Association. “Textbook Usage in the United States: the Case of U.S. History.” Accessed on September 1, 2021.

  11. MarketWatch. “Publishing Market Share, Growth 2021 Global Industry Size, CAGR of 1%, Future Trends, Growth Key Factors, Demand, Sales and Income, Manufacture Players, and Forecast 2025.” Accessed on September 1, 2021.

  12. The Insight Partners. “Digital Publishing Market ($37.94Bn by 2028) Growth Forecast at 6.4% CAGR During 2021 to 2028 COVID Impact and Global Analysis by TheInsightPartners.com.” Accessed on September 1, 2021.

  13. Businesswire. “Barnes Noble Education Reports Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2021 Financial Results.” Accessed on September 1, 2021.

  14. Publihsers Weekly. “A Year for the (Record) Books in Publishing”. Accessed on January 5, 2022.

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Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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