Unit sales of print books sold through outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan rose 2.4% in 2014, with total units topping 635 million. The gain was driven by a 3.4% increase in unit sales through the retail and club channel relative to 2013, which offset a 1.8% decline in sales through the mass merchandiser channel and others during the same period. Units through retailers and clubs, which include Amazon and all types of bookstores, rose to just under 519 million; in 2013, print units through the channel fell 2.5% compared to the previous year.
BookScan estimates that it captures approximately 80% of print-unit sales made in the U.S. The company added Walmart to its mass merchandiser panel in 2013, but was not able to include historical data, making it difficult to track precise long-term unit trends. Still, the 2014 figures are further evidence that print books are selling better than they have since sales of e-books exploded in 2010 and Borders closed its doors in 2011. Total print-unit sales bottomed out in 2012, falling to 590 million, but in the two years since then, units have risen 7.6% (helped to some degree by the addition of Walmart to BookScan).
In 2014, the juvenile segments led the unit gains, with sales in juvenile nonfiction up 15.6% and sales of juvenile fiction ahead 12.0% over 2013. Scholastic’s Minecraft titles were the big winners last year, with Minecraft books taking the top four spots on the juvenile nonfiction list for 2014, selling almost 2.2 million copies at outlets that report to BookScan. (For a complete list of the bestsellers of 2014, see p. 6.) The 12.0% increase in the juvenile segment was led by John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, and Jeff Kinney’s The Long Haul—which was also the bestselling book in the holiday shopping season.
Units in adult nonfiction rose 1.4% in 2014, led by Killing Patton, by Bill O’Reilly, which sold about 1.2 million copies at outlets that report to BookScan. Adult fiction was the only one of the four major categories that had a unit decline in the year, as no title sold more than one million print copies at BookScan outlets. The top seller was the trade paperback edition of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which sold just under 963,000 copies.
Looking at formats, board books had the biggest gain in the year with units up 17.4%. Trade paperback sales increased 4.3% in 2014, while hardcover units rose 3.1%. Mass market paperback continued to be the print format most negatively affected by the rise of e-books, with units down 10.3% in the year.
The unit gains for 2014 were helped by a 22% increase in the week ended Dec. 28, 2014, compared to the final week of the holiday shopping season in 2013. The gain was likely helped by an extra shopping day in Christmas week 2014. The bestselling books during this week had a familiar look to those of most other weeks in late 2014 with The Long Haul and Killing Patton running one-two, followed by two paperback editions of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, with 41: A Portrait of My Father, by George W. Bush, rounding out the top five.
Unit Sales of Print Books (in thousands), 2013–2014
Unit Sales of Print Books by Channel
|Retail & Club||501,658||518,901||3.4%|
Unit Sales of Print Books by Category
Unit Sales of Print Books by Format
|Mass Market Paperback||80,020||71,758||-10.3|