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Book formats in the U.S. - statistics & facts

Books remain an important part of U.S. consumers’ lives. Data from a survey revealed that books were among the most popular gifts people would buy for themselves during the holiday season, ranking above DIY goods, digital content, and cosmetics. A separate study held in the United States found that print books are the preferred book format, though audiobooks and e-books are also gathering ground in terms of both sales and readership.

Printed books

In 2020, unit sales of print books in the United States reached 750.89 million. Meanwhile, Americans’ expenditure on reading averages 110 U.S. dollars each year.

A significant share of U.S. adults responding to a survey on book consumption reported having read a print book in the last year. Younger consumers aged 18 to 29 years old were most likely to have done so, with over 70 percent saying they had read a print book in the 12 months leading up to the survey. Adult non-fiction was the bestselling print book category in 2020, and contrary to usual trends, all categories saw a hike in unit sales year over year. This was attributed to major events such as the U.S. presidential election, Black Lives Matter protests, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital books

Audiobooks are a growing segment of the book industry, and over 71 thousand different audiobook titles were published in 2020 alone. That is close to double the number of audiobooks published in 2015. Audiobooks are an appealing alternative to print not only for those who want to listen whilst on the move but also for people who find reading difficult. Data from an annual survey found that the average number of audiobooks listened to each year continues to grow, and the share of adults engaging with the format has also increased. This trend is set to continue as more consumers take advantage of what the format has to offer.

E-book sales are also climbing. E-readers remain a popular method of e-book consumption, and average annual spending on e-readers has remained relatively stable at approximately 20 to 25 U.S. dollars. The widespread use of smartphones and e-book apps also made e-books available to a huge portion of the population without the need to purchase any additional hardware.

Although audiobook and e-book revenue data does not include figures on independent authors and generally comes from just a handful of publishers, it is clear that the demand for digital books is growing. Audiobooks and e-books are also cheaper to produce than print, which means that they often enjoy higher profit margins than their print counterparts. The future of digital book formats will be characterized by growth, but that is not to say that digital alternatives will replace print books. A global study found that many readers in the United States prefer a combination of book formats, which is encouraging news for publishers seeking to capitalize on the varied and changing reading habits of modern U.S. book lovers.

Interesting statistics

In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 21 most important statistics relating to "Book formats in the U.S.".

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