New Report Shows Rise in Religious Book Sales

An annual publication that gives a comprehensive view of U.S. book publishing dollar and unit sales has unveiled a snapshot of the religious book market that is different from another recent report, which labeled 2006 as a "difficult year" for religious books.

Book Industry Trends 2007 was released this past Friday by the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG) – one of the U.S. publishing industry's leading trade associations for policy, standards and research. It showed that religious books had grown strongly in 2006 with a net increase of 5.6 percent in net revenue compared to 2005.

The newly released stats are contrary to those presented in the sales report released recently by The Association of American Publishers (AAP), which compiled its data in cooperation with statistics received from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). The AAP report claimed that religious books had a "difficult year" with a 10.2 percent drop in 2006.

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The difference may be due to a number of smaller publishers, who earned less than $50 million in revenue, included in the report by BISG. This was the second year that BISG included these minorities, allowing for a more complete picture to how religious books are faring.

"What we did see through our research is that there was definitely an increase in the number of publishers out there," explained Jeff Hayes, research director for InfoTrends, in The Book Standard. "We estimate around 88,500 active publishers (both religious and non-religious) in 2006, which was about 1,400 higher than 2005."

BISG has provided reports on book publishers and sales for the past 30 years. Book collaborators specifically look at eight categories that are major segments of the book business: adult trade, juvenile trade, mass market, religious, professional, university press, elhi, and college.

Among all the categories, Book Industry Trends 2007 revealed that religious books actually had the largest increase, followed by adult trade with a 3.9 percent growth.

Religious books also had the largest growth in unit sales at 3.1 percent compared to the other seven groups. Adult trade followed with a 1.7 percent increase.

As has been shown in the past years, there was an expected pattern yielding larger sales increases compared to unit sales growth.

According to BISG, the total publishers' net revenues in 2006 reached $35.6 billion, an increase of 3.2 percent. AAP, in comparison, had only estimated that U.S. publishers had net sales of $24.2 billion.

Book Industry Trends 2007 writers also made sales forecasts for 2011, predicting strong gains for religious books.

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