Sales of print books for the first six months of 2015 were running just about even with the same period in 2014 at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan. Units inched up 0.3% in the period, to more than 286 million. While the overall sales trend in the first half of 2015 was similar to the first half of 2014 (when sales were up 0.6% over the first six months of 2013), there were some notable differences, including two major shifts in sales by category.

Sales of juvenile fiction, which rose 14% in the first six months of 2014, were down 5% in the January–June 2015 period. Publishers have been unable to replace the many young adult 2014 blockbusters that were led by Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. The good news for publishers, however, was the marked improvement in the print sales of adult fiction. Unit sales were up 1% in the category in the first half of 2015; in the first half of 2014, units were off 13% compared to the similar period in 2013. The category benefitted from huge sales of The Girl on the Train, Grey, and All the Light We Cannot See (see p. 5 for more 2015 bestsellers).

Adult nonfiction had a solid six-month performance, with units ahead 3%, relative to the similar period last year. The best-performing category was juvenile nonfiction, in which sales in the six-month period rose 9%—after posting an 11% increase in the first six months of 2014 relative to the year before that.

The increase in juvenile nonfiction was helped by the continued strong demand for board books. Sales of the format have increased 10% so far in 2015 compared to January–June 2014, following a 17% jump in sales in the first six months of last year.

The most significant change in format sales, however, came in sales of physical audiobooks, which were down 17% in the first six months of 2015 after rising 6% in the same period in 2014. The decline in mass market paperback continued in the first half of 2015, but the rate slowed slightly. In the first six months of 2014, sales fell 12%; in the first half of 2015, the decline was 10%. The hardcover and trade paperback segments, which had gains of 1% and 2% so far in 2015, respectively, were running close to the same increases as in 2014.

Unit sales in the mass merchandisers channel, which were down 3% in the fist six months of 2014, dropped even more in the first six months of 2015—down 10%. Higher sales in the retail and club channel, which includes both e-retailers and physical bookstores, were able to largely offset the drop in sales through mass merchandisers.

Unit Sales of Print Books January–June, 2014 v. 2015

(in thousands)

2014 2015 Chge
Total 285,916 286,793 0.3%

Unit Sales of Print Books by Channel

2014 2015 Chge
Retail & Club 232,757 239,030 3%
Mass Merch./Other 53,195 47,763 -10%

Unit Sales of Print Books by Category

2014 2015 Chge
Adult Nonfiction 110,890 114,546 3%
Adult Fiction 64,719 65,388 1%
Juvenile Nonfiction 20,737 22,570 9%
Juvenile Fiction 76,579 72,625 -5%

Unit Sales of Print Books by Format

2014 2015 Chge
Hardcover 72,658 73,662 1%
Trade Paperback 156,990 159,754 2%
Mass Market Paperback 35,143 31,655 -10%
Board Books 11,722 12,871 10%
Audio 2,444 2,020 -17%