By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit
Publishing news in the first half of 2017 has been encouraging with regular headlines in the trade journal Publishers Weekly proclaiming milestones such as: “Publishers Post Good Start to 2017—Sales at four large houses are up in the first quarter” and “Fast-Growing Independent Publishers.”
Especially encouraging to our colleagues—the professional team behind our online magazine ReadTheSpirit and our Front Edge Publishing book operation—is the June 15, 2017, news from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) analyzing trends for 2016. Because publishers are notoriously reluctant to share much data about book sales, compiling such reports takes a long time and requires careful analysis to fill in gaps.
What the AAP reported on June 15 was a picture of an industry dominated by five giant publishing conglomerates with strong sales in ink-on-paper books compared with ongoing digital book sales. Millions of Americans continue to read e-books, a very important portion of the publishing market, but hardbacks and paperbacks continue to dominate sales.
This is a historic settling of a turbulent market, reassuring publishers and millions of readers that their paper books aren’t going to disappear. The several years after the introduction of the Kindle in 2007 now is retrospectively referred to by some industry analysts as the era of the Digital Scare—a time when professionals thought digital preferences might make paper books obsolete.
In 2017, ink-on-paper remains the preferred choice for the majority of book readers. While the AAP closely guards the more detailed analysis of publishing trends, the trade group did publicly report that, once again, “Print books saw growth and, for the second consecutive year, publisher revenues from eBook sales declined.”
“There’s been a lot of buzz about print books resurgence and this year’s data tells us that readers are enjoying all formats that are available to them, and that includes eBooks and audiobooks. Just like print, eBooks are here to stay and we believe their growth is now stabilized,” said Tina Jordan, AAP’s Vice President, Trade Publishing. “Even when we see shifts in categories and formats, it’s clear that books remain a staple in our lives.”
GROWTH IN FAITH & KIDS
In this new industry-wide report, overall sales in most major categories—fiction, non-fiction, educational, professional, etc.—saw a 2.3 percent decline year to year, compared with 2015. Growth lay in two thematic categories: Religion and also in the category called Children & Young Adult.
The AAP report found the same trend toward ink-on-paper in sales within these two popular categories. For example, “within Children & Young Adult books, hardback revenue was up 10.7 percent; paperback revenue was up 0.9 percent; board book revenue was up 7.7 percent; and eBook revenue declined 32.6 percent.”
Our publishing house uses a unique publishing software system that produces books in both ink-on-paper and eBook formats at the same time.
The news about these two popular categories is especially heartening to the team at ReadTheSpirit and Front Edge Publishing, because the books we have published over the past decade feature lots of titles about faith, religious diversity and daily spiritual inspiration.
We also have published innovative books about “Early Learning” and issues of deep concern to parents and children, like bullying. For example, our Early Learning series includes Access to School and Solutions for Success in which parents, teachers and children talk about innovative preschool programs in Detroit that empower immigrant families to become community leaders. Books combatting the growing problem of bullying include The New Bullying and the interactive comic-book that has been used with children in schools: Bullying Is No Laughing Matter.
Our inspirational publishing ranges from books that relate faith to daily life, such as Lynne Meredith Golodner’s The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads, to books with practical wisdom about religious diversity, such as the Humane Society of the United States overview of religious perspectives on care for animals Every Living Thing.
Some of our most popular religious books are uplifting memoirs, such as Faith Fowler’s funny and inspirational memoir This Far by Faith. In that book, the nationally known pastor and community-organizer, the Rev. Faith Fowler, tells true stories about the remarkable people who are restoring communities in Detroit—despite sometimes horrific challenges.
Once again, our publishing staff is inspired to read in the pages of the June 19, 2017, issue of Publishers Weekly (PW), a lengthy roundup of this genre by longtime PW expert on religious publishing Lynn Garrett. Headlined Remembering the Spirit—Memoirs tell of finding faith and overcoming adversity, Lynn writes:
“Humans are fascinated by other humans, and that means that the stories people tell of their own lives are enduringly popular. Memoirs in the religion and spirituality category tell stories of faith found, changed, or regained, and of the struggle, suffering, and loss overcome through faith. Along with classic subjects such as illness or the death of a loved one, many new and forthcoming memoirs focus on difficult contemporary problems, such as sexual identity, addiction, racism, incarceration and politics in the Middle East.”
As a team, we take heart in this news.
As our readers, we hope you are similarly inspired. You can play a major role in supporting this trend by taking time to visit our bookstore and finding something you will enjoy reading—and will consider sharing with friends.