The AAP year-end figures and the Nielsen Bookscan reports for 2011 are out, and those who have made it their business to play down the decline of paper publishing and the burgeoning popularity of electronic books are finding their job getting tougher by the minute.
Every print category except religious has fallen in sales for multiple years now. I'll limit the numbers to the areas with which fiction writers may have more interest.
First, Nielsen (the same Nielsen with the TV surveys) Bookscan, which monitors about 75% of print transactions, reports that
total print sales were down 8.9% in 2011, after having dropped 4.5% in 2010,
adult fiction in print fell by 7.2% in 2010, and from there
dropped 17.7% in 2011.
It further reports that
mass market paperbacks were down 23.4% for 2011,
now having plunged 60% since 2008.
The Association of American Publishers, the chief organization of the publishing industry that needs no further introduction to professional writers, released its 2011 year-end figures on Monday. Among other things, it says that
every print publishing category except religious books declined in 2011,
2011's ebook sales were up 117% over 2010's, for the first time ahead of the paper categories of mass market paperback, children's hardcover, and religious titles.
Bear in mind that these aren't the figures of some group wanting the numbers to look bad, but those of the AAP itself, the organization with maybe the most interest in painting as rosy a picture as possible.
That kind of data is hard to put a minimizing spin on.