The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - Consumers are buying fewer magazines at newsstands given the deep recession and the availability of plenty of free reading material online.

An industry group said Monday that single-copy sales tumbled 12 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2008. That followed a year-over-year decline of 11 percent during the second half of last year.

Total circulation, including subscriptions, edged down 1 percent.

The figures were released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, based on 521 magazines that gave circulation numbers for both years. The total circulation of those titles stands at roughly 340 million.

Total paid subscriptions held steady, but the roughly 36 million magazines sold at newsstands and other retailers account for a disproportionate amount of publishers' earnings because subscriptions are generally discounted. Publishers are often able to prop up overall circulation - and meet guarantees they make to advertisers - by deeply discounting subscriptions.

Hearst Corp.'s Cosmopolitan is still the most popular magazine at newsstands, though sales fell nearly 8 percent to 1.6 million.

In overall circulation figures, Playboy and TV Guide Magazine fared the worst, down 9 percent and 10 percent, respectively. People magazine's circulation fell nearly 5 percent and Reader's Digest saw a 3 percent decline.