The lack of a breakout print hit did not prevent unit sales in the first half of 2017 from being 3% higher than in the first six months of last year, at outlets that report to NPD BookScan (which captures 80%–85% of print unit sales). Units for the January–June period in 2017 were 310.7 million, up from 302.8 million a year ago. Just as it was in the first six months of 2016, the backlist favorite Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss was the most popular title in the first half of this year, selling more than 482,000 copies (up from 458,000 copies in January–June 2016).

All four of the major segments did better this year than in the first six months of 2016. Juvenile fiction had the best performance, with unit sales up 5%. In addition to higher sales of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, the segment benefitted from strong sales of two editions of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, which together sold approximately 500,000 print copies. The animal category had the biggest gain among juvenile fiction segments, with sales up 21%.

Unit sales in juvenile nonfiction in the first half of the year were 4% higher than in the first half of 2016, when they were, in turn, 9% higher than in the first six months of 2015. Well-established backlist titles helped drive the gains, led by First 100 Words by Roger Priddy, which sold almost 195,000 copies in the period. The biography/autobiography segment had a strong gain, led by the young readers’ edition of Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, which sold nearly 78,000 copies.

Adult nonfiction unit sales were only 2% higher this year than in the first half of 2016. That was, in fact, a respectable showing, given that units increased 12% in the first half of 2016 over 2015, due to continued strong sales of adult coloring books. Sales, however, cooled noticeably in the first part of 2017: in the two categories that are home to adult coloring books, art/architecture/design/photography and crafts/hobbies/antiques/games, sales were down 33% and 30%, respectively. The top seller in adult nonfiction in the first half of the year was the backlist title Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, which sold almost 475,000 copies.

Unit sales of adult fiction this year inched ahead of 2016’s first-half numbers (which were down 0.4% from 2015) by less than 1%. Two backlist titles led the way: A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman sold 451,000 copies and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood sold 325,000 copies.

By format, board books continued to remain hot, with units in the first half of 2017 up 10% from the same period in 2016, and hardcover sales rose 7%. Sales of trade paperbacks were 2% higher than a year ago, a solid showing given that most coloring books are sold in that format.

The 3% total gain in the first half of 2017 over the same period in 2016 was lower than the 6% unit increase recorded by BookScan in the first half of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. Print units for 2016 overall ended up 3% above 2015’s figure.

Unit Sales of Print Books January–June, 2016 v. 2017

(in thousands)

2016 2017 Chge
Total 302,776 310,746 3%

Unit Sales of Print Books by Channel

2016 2017 Chge
Retail & Club 256,970 268,501 4%
Mass Merch./Other 45,806 42,245 -8%

Unit Sales of Print Books by Category

2016 2017 Chge
Adult Nonfiction 127,377 130,512 2%
Adult Fiction 65,621 66,061 0.7%
Juvenile Nonfiction 24,746 25,843 4%
Juvenile Fiction 74,969 78,484 5%

Unit Sales of Print Books by Format

2016 2017 Chge
Hardcover 77,775 83,151 7%
Trade Paperback 172,986 175,730 2%
Mass Market Paperback 29,134 26,860 -9%
Board Books 14,596 16,123 10%
Audio 1,754 1,615 -8%