As of 2021, over 49.45 million students are enrolled in public schools in the United States, from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. We decided to dive into the statistics on how much almost 50 million children spend on educational books and compiled the most comprehensive report on K-12 textbook sales in the United States.
PreK-12 textbook sales by year
- Over $5.61 billion was generated in preK-12 textbook sales revenue in the United States in 2022.
- The preK-12 segment had another big year in 2022 as revenues grew by 16.63% over 2021.
- 2021 was a huge bounce-back year for K-12 textbook sales, as the revenue jumped by 25.3% over 2020 levels.
- Pandemic-impacted 2020 decreased sales of K-12 educational material by 12.3% after a huge sales boom in 2019.
- Overall, 2022 was another record year for preK-12 book textbooks in terms of sales revenue.
- Revenue from K-12 educational books has increased by over $2.26 billion over the last 5 years.
|Year||PreK-12 sales revenue ($ billion)||Growth|
Over the last several years, preK-12 book sales became the dominant source of revenue for the educational publishing industry, taking over from the higher-ed segment:
- In 2022, over 63.82% of the educational publishing revenue came from preK-12 textbooks.
- This was the fourth year in a row in which preK-12 books account for more than half of the industry’s sales revenue.
- In 2013, preK-12 textbooks accounted for only 44.4% of the industry’s revenue.
- The share of this segment in the industry’s total increased by 43.77% over the last 9 years.
- 7 over the last 9 years, this segment grew faster than the educational industry. However, since 2013 only 3 times did the educational industry record growth in sales year-over-year.
|Year||K-12 sales ($ billion)||Educational sales ($ billion)||Share of K-12 in educational sales|
The average price of K-12 textbooks
It’s very difficult to estimate how much the average K-12 student spends on textbooks in the US. This is due to the fact that over 60% of students reported that they purchased their textbooks either online or second-hand.
The other reason is the lack of recent publicly-available data on the average price of new textbooks. Our estimates, based on the 2011 survey of North Caroline K-12 students and the rate of inflation in the US, show that:
- The average math textbook for K-12 costs around $57.34 for elementary school students, $72.32 for middle school, and $86.14 for high school.
- Reading textbooks cost around $40.4 for elementary, $77.86 for middle school, and around $66.31 for high school.
- Science textbooks will cost around $54.81, $70.19, and $77.64 for elementary, middle, and high school, respectively.
- Social studies textbooks stand around $51.19 for elementary, $72.80 for middle school, and $88.79 for high school students.
- The average K-12 student will need around 19.9 textbooks per semester or around 39.8 books for a full school year.
- Based on these estimates, the average elementary school student will spend between $1,608.08 and $2,282.25 on textbooks for every school year if they want to buy only new textbooks.
- Middle school students’ expenditure on new textbooks is between $2,793.44 and $3,098.71.
- For high schoolers, between $2,639.26 and $3,533.84 is needed for new textbooks each school year.
- However, the estimates are that the average student spends between $910 and $1300 for textbooks, which indicates that a good portion of purchased K-12 textbooks are obtained on the second-hand market.
|Expenditure on new textbooks||Elementary||Middle school||High school|
|Minimum expenditure on new textbooks||$1,608.08||$2,793.44||$2,639.26|
|Maximum expenditure on new textbooks||$2,282.25||$3,098.71||$3,533.84|
K-12 textbooks during Covid-19
- During March 2020, the peak of the Covid-19 lockdowns, around 50% of Amazon’s best-selling print titles were K-12 educational and activity books.
- Educational publishers also benefited from the lockdowns, as Scholastic reported an increase of 70% compared to 2019 for workbook sales.
- There was a huge interest in investing in online education during this period, and venture capitalists invested around $16 billion in online education technologies in 2020,
- This was over 2x more than the previous record in 2018 ($8.2 billion).