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October’s Books Sales Down 20 Percent, Publishers Say

Bookstores Put the Month’s Damage at 5.6%

clipart-down-arrow.jpgIf you were looking for a proximate cause for Black Wednesday and its aftershocks, something you could point your fingers at and say, “All those layoffs and pay freezes? It’s about that,” the Association of American Publishers has just realized its latest statistical report on sales—and after the relatively small drop in sales of 2.0 percent in September, they’re saying October’s sales plummeted 20.1 percent, with revenues for the month of just $644 million. That means that year-to-date sales are down 3.4 percent compared to the first ten months of 2007.

Sales of adult hardcovers and adult paperbacks were down 25 and 23 percent respectively for the month, although adult mass market paperbacks saw a 6.3 percent gain. Religious books were down 25.6 percent in October, and have declined 11.5 percent so far this year.. Hardcover books for young readers showed a modest gain in October but are down 23.4 percent for the year (keeping in mind there was a Harry Potter book in the 2007 market); paperbacks in that category plummeted 14.8 percent for the month, but are still ahead of last year’s performance by just 6 percent.

Even audiobook sales are down (9.1 percent for October, 22.9 percent for the year so far). But here’s a tiny bright spot: e-book sales were up 73 percent over last October, and have been up 57.7 percent so far this year… Keep in mind, though, that at $5.2 million for the month, electronic books still represent less than 1 percent of the reported market.

UPDATE: PW has the October bookstore numbers, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau: a decrease in sales of 5.6 percent that reduces the gains established by stronger performance earlier in the year to just 1.3 percent.

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