Unit sales of print books from outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan increased 2.8% in 2015 over 2014, marking the second consecutive year that print units posted annual gains. In 2014, unit sales increased 2.4% over 2013; in 2015 unit sales were up 5.3% over 2013. Total units sold topped 652 million in 2015 at outlets that report to BookScan, which captures about 80% of print unit sales in the U.S.

The retail and club channel had a particularly good year in 2015, with sales up 5.4% over 2014. The increase offset an 8.8% drop in sales through the mass merchandisers channel. The retail and club segment includes independent and chain bookstores, as well as Amazon; the mass merchandiser channel includes such large chains as Walmart.

Both major adult categories (fiction and nonfiction) posted increases in the year. While the adult nonfiction category had the larger gain at 6.6%, the 2.1% increase in adult fiction category is perhaps more noteworthy, because it marks the first time since 2010 (when e-books became a significant part of the market) that unit sales in adult fiction rose year over year. In 2014, for example, adult fiction sales fell 7.9% compared to the previous year. The increase in adult fiction in 2015 was due in part to extremely strong print sales of four titles that each sold more than one million copies; in 2014 no adult fiction book sold more than one million copies at outlets that report to BookScan. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee was the #1 print bestseller last year, in all categories, selling just under 1.6 million copies. The three other adult fiction books that sold more than one million units at outlets that report to BookScan were Grey by E.L. James, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. (For a complete list of the bestsellers of 2015, see p. 5.)

The adult nonfiction segment had a solid 2015 and remained the largest print category. Its 6.6% gain this past year over 2014 was led by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, which sold more than 1.1 million copies. Adult nonfiction is also the home to most adult coloring books; eight of the top 50 bestsellers last year in the segment were adult coloring books, led by Johanna’s Basford’s Lost Ocean, which sold more than 492,000 copies last year.

Basford had the #1 and #3 highest-selling titles in the juvenile nonfiction category last year as well, with Secret Garden taking the top spot and helping the category post an 11.7% increase over 2014. Unit sales of juvenile fiction fell 3% in the year compared to 2014, but the 171 million units sold in the category were still ahead of the 157 million units the segment sold in 2013. The category had only one title that sold more than one million copies last year, Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid: Old School; in 2014, five titles in the segment sold more than one million copies.

Looking at sales by format, trade paperbacks—the format that holds adult coloring books—had a 5% gain in unit sales over 2014. The hardcover and board book formats also had sales gains in the year, but sales of mass market paperbacks and physical audiobooks both had double-digit declines in 2015.

Unit Sales of Print Books, 2013–2015

(in thousands)

2013 2014 2015 % Change 2014-15
Total 620,044 635,093 652,673 2.8%

Unit Sales of Print Books by Channel

2013 2014 2015 % Change 2014-15
Retail & Club 501,658 518,901 546,719 5.4%
Mass Merchandisers/Other 118,385 116,191 105,953 -8.8%

Unit Sales of Print Books by Category

2013 2014 2015 % Change 2014-15
Adult Nonfiction 236,833 240,130 256,042 6.6%
Adult Fiction 150,590 138,712 141,690 2.1%
Juvenile Nonfiction 42,283 48,882 54,624 11.7%
Juvenile Fiction 157,707 176,685 171,383 -3.0%

Unit Sales of Print Books by Format

2013 2014 2015 % Change 2014-15
Hardcover 168,250 173,483 178,255 2.8%
Trade Paperback 324,701 338,940 355,737 5.0%
Mass Market Paperback 80,020 71,758 64,318 -10.4%
Board Books 23,069 27,092 30,978 14.3%
Audio 5,116 5,128 4,434 -13.5%