US e-book revenues fell 4.7% in 2021
E-book revenues in the United States fell 4.7% from the previous year and generated $1.1 billion. Digital audiobooks had an incredible year and the format grew by double digits, 13.4%, to $766.2 million in revenue. Physical audio was down 16.4% to $21.6 million. It will be interesting to see if audiobooks can overtake eBook sales in the next few years.
Print and hardcover book sales increased 11.8% and total revenue was $9.5 billion for 2021. Breaking it down, hardcover book revenue increased 11.3% to 3.7 billions of dollars ; Paperbacks grew 18.8%, with revenue of $3.1 billion; Mass market increased 5.5% to $240.9 million; and hardback books grew 9.7%, with revenue of $212.1 million. This kind of revenue really underscores how print is here to stay, and e-books will never top it.
The American Publishers Association also just released its December 2021 numbers. E-book revenue fell 5.4% for the month from December 2020 to a total of $83.9 million. The Downloaded Audio format fell 0.1% in December, with revenue of $66.0 million. Physical audio fell 27.6% to $1.4 million. In terms of physical paper revenues during the month of December, in the Commerce category (consumer books), related revenues decreased by 3.7%, to $298.4 million; Paperbacks grew 8.8%, with revenue of $266.2 million; The mass market fell 26.2% to $19.1 million; and hardbacks grew 20.3%, with revenue of $20.2 million.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and The New York Times. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.