With unit sales of print books up about 2% in the first 47 weeks of 2014, year over year, at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan, the industry is poised to post its first increase in print sales since 2008. And since unit sales of print books during the holiday season rose in 2013 over the same five-week period in 2012, the signs for an increase for the full year are promising.
The 9.1% increase in total print unit sales in last year’s holiday season was the most significant year-over-year increase in holiday sales since annual holiday print sales began falling in 2009. The biggest improvement in the 2013 season was in the juvenile fiction category, which had a 27.2% increase over the previous year, led by a number of young adult titles, including the Divergent series. The juvenile nonfiction segment, which has posted strong gains so far in 2014, did very well at the end of 2013, with units up 16.3%.
The holiday season of 2013 also saw the adult fiction category—the segment most affected by the sale of e-books—post higher sales for the first time in more than four years, with sales up 6.1% over the holiday season of 2012. Sales in adult nonfiction have been very steady since 2011, hovering between 36,191,000 and 36,983,000 in the last five weeks of each year. The strong showing in 2010 was largely due to a number of big books, led by George W. Bush’s Decision Points.
In a conference call discussing results for the third quarter, which ended November 1, Books-A-Million CEO Terry Finley said the publishing lineup for the final quarter of the year was “modest.” Still, Finley said he was excited about a number of new titles, including books from Stephen King, James Patterson, and Patricia Cornwell. He also expected titles tied to the upcoming Hobbit and American Sniper films to do well over the holidays. BAM posted a 1.2% sales increase in the third quarter over the same period in 2013, with revenue hitting $101.2 million. Comparable store sales were up 1.8%, and rose 2.2%, excluding sales of e-readers. The net loss was flat at $6.9 million.
Holiday Print Unit Sales by Segment, 2010–2013
* Includes units from other categories, such as audiobooks and calendars.
Source: nielsen bookscan.