Many booksellers reported that the past holiday season was the best in a number of years, but whatever gains surviving stores enjoyed appear to have been the result of the collapse of Borders since preliminary figures released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau show a large decline in bookstore sales for December. According to the Census, December bookstore sales fell 15.6% in the month, to $1.67 billion, by far the largest decline in 2011. Despite the December plunge, bookstore sales for the full year were down 0.8%, to $15.53 billion. The Census Bureau estimates are from stores that generate at least 50% of their sales through books.

For the entire retail segment, December sales rose 5.1% and were up 7.7% for the full year.