En su edición de hoy el suplemento de libros de The New York Times incluye un interesante artículo acerca del balance del año pasado y de las prospecciones para el próximo en las ventas de libros en Estados Unidos. Lo que más me ha llamado la atención del artículo ‘Sales Barely Up, Book Trade Yearns for Next Blockbuster’ es que aborda diversos segmentos del mercado del libro y las observaciones que hace con respecto a aspectos como la relación entre el precio del libro y las ventas, la falta de grandes best sellers el año pasado o la relación entre el número de ejemplares vendidos y los ingresos de los editores.
Sales Barely Up, Book Trade Yearns for Next Blockbuster
By MOTOKO RICH
Published: June 1, 2007
In the absence of a new Harry Potter book or a blockbuster by Dan Brown, the publishing industry struggled to sell more copies last year than it did the year before, according to a report to be released today by the Book Industry Study Group, a publishing trade association.
Publishers sold 3.1 billion books in 2006, up just 0.5 percent from the 3.09 billion sold the year before, according to Book Industry Trends 2007, an annual report that looks at sales in the United States. As a result of higher retail book prices, net revenue climbed 3.2 percent, to $35.7 billion from $34.6 billion.
The data is being released as publishers, booksellers, librarians, authors and agents are assembled in New York for the second day of the industry’s annual BookExpo America convention, a frenzy of parties, celebrity author appearances, book signings and panel discussions to herald the fall lineup of new books.
“There was a time when publishers thought that people wouldn’t pay above $25 for a book,” said Albert N. Greco, a senior researcher at the nonprofit Institute for Publishing Research who analyzed the data in the study. These days, cover prices can exceed $25. With heavy discounts at chain bookstores and other outlets, consumers often pay less, but the publisher still nets half of the cover price. “Even raising the price by $1 a year, or even 50 cents, you still get more money,” said Mr. Greco, who is also a professor of marketing at Fordham University.
The strongest growth segment in publishing last year continued to be religious books, where 263.4 million were sold, up 3.1 percent from the previous year. The niche of religious books, which includes titles like The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen, sold 197.3 million copies, up 6.7 percent from 2005. Net revenue for that segment increased 9.2 percent, to $1.65 billion. Sales of Bibles, testaments, hymnals and prayer books, however, slid 6.2 percent, to 66.2 million, and revenue was down 1.3 percent, to $772.9 million.
Adult trade paperbacks increased unit sales by 3.5 percent, to 418.2 million, with net revenue rising 6.1 percent, to $3.69 billion. “We think there has been a migration towards adult trade paperback because of price,” Mr. Greco said. He said that people who shop at stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Costco are particularly attracted to trade paperbacks, where discounts can bring the cover price down to $8.99 or less. “The stock market is doing great, but gas prices are up, so paperback will continue to be a nice format,” he said.
Sales of adult hardcovers dipped 0.1 percent, to 406 million copies last year, although revenue rose 2.4 percent, to $5.49 billion. Mr. Greco noted that best sellers generally sell fewer copies in hardcover than in years past: In 1994, for example, the No. 1 fiction seller, The Chamber by John Grisham, sold 3.2 million copies in hardcover. Last year, Mitch Albom had the No. 1 best-selling fiction title with For One Day More, but it sold only 2.7 million copies in hardcover, according to data from Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine.
Similarly, in 1994, the No. 1 nonfiction title was In the Kitchen With Rosie, according to Mr. Greco. It sold 5.5 million copies, compared with just 2.2 million of John Grisham’s “Innocent Man,” last year’s top nonfiction best seller.
This was the second year the figures included results from small and midsize publishers with sales of less than $50 million each. Mr. Greco noted that mass market paperbacks, which are the more compact editions generally favored by commercial authors like Dean Koontz and Nora Roberts, may show relatively stronger growth over the next five years because smaller publishers are increasingly selling books in this format through nontraditional channels like direct-to-consumer online sites and at seminars.
Harry Potter is expected to drive sales of juvenile hardcovers this year. The Book Industry Study Group expects a 9 percent increase in revenue for that segment, and a 6.5 percent increase in sales. Scholastic, the North American publisher of the Harry Potter series, is planning an initial print run of 12 million copies for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the series; it comes out July 21. That compares with 10.8 million copies for the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
But after Harry’s big year, sales in the juvenile segment are expected to remain flat for several years, although revenue will rise modestly, because of increases in cover prices.
The strongest growth segment this year is expected to be elementary and high school textbooks, where the Study Group projects 9.6 percent growth in sales as several states adopt new series of textbooks. Mr. Greco said that strong growth would continue for the next three years.