Were they met in those heady weeks of December, when publishers and booksellers count on huge sales for their top titles? Certainly not at the major chains, and if their numbers are down, other retailers in all likelihood are also down. Barnes & Noble always has the most books with five-digit weekly unit sales (10,000+) in the four weeks leading up to Christmas, so we checked out bestseller performance on the chain's list for the last five years. The units were strongest in 1999. Week one, there were 10 books that sold more than 10,000 copies each; in week 2, 14 books went over that mark; and 18 titles did the same the third week. The highest scorer was Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. The Doubleday book sold more than 86,000 copies just at B&N in the week ending December 19, 1999, and that was after selling about 97,000 copies a week earlier. So far in 2002, there are five books with sales of more than 10,000 in the first week of December; seven for week two; and 11 for week three. Michael Crichton's Prey is the hottest hardcover; in its best week (the one ending December 1) at B&N, it sold about 32,000 copies. For comparison: back in 1996, B&N moved more than 97,000 copies of Crichton's Airframe in the three weeks leading up to Christmas; Prey's figure for the same three weeks is about 79,000.
Volume 249 Issue 51 12/23/2002