In recent years, book sales have been strongest in the last few weeks before Christmas. In 2017, booksellers and publishers are hoping that trend holds, as sales in the first three weeks of the holiday season have been soft.

According to NPD BookScan, print unit sales fell 2.7% between Thanksgiving week (ended Nov. 26) and the week ended December 10, 2017, compared to the similar period in 2016. Total units sold were 58.1 million in the three-week period in 2017, down from 59.7 million in the comparable period in 2016. During the three-week period, sales were the softest in the most recent week, when unit sales were down 4% compared to the week ended Nov. 27, 2016.

The weakness has been the most pronounced in the mass merchandisers channel, where sales are down almost 8% in the most recent three-week period compared to 2016. Sales through the retail and club channel were off almost 2% in the 2017 three week span compared to the same period a year ago. NPD's retail and club channel includes online sales from Amazon and No online sales, which many analysts expect to rise significantly this year, are included in the mass merchandisers channel, and may be one reason for the soft start to holiday book sales through those bricks-and-mortar stores.