Although no new book sold more than one million print copies last year, unit sales of print books were 1.9% higher in 2017 than in 2016 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. The service, which tracks between 80% and 85% of print sales, reported 687.2 million total units sold last year, up from 674.1 million in 2016. The increase follows a 3.3% increase in 2016. Units have risen every year since 2013, and 2017 sales were up 10.8% from that year.
The two bestselling books of the year were Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, which were originally published in 2012 and 2015, respectively. The bestselling new book was the latest installment in Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid series, The Getaway, which sold more than 992,000 copies.
The overall unit gain was driven by the retail and club channel (which includes bookstores and online retailers), in which sales were 3.5% higher than in 2016. Sales through the channel have risen every year since 2013. By contrast, unit sales in the mass merchandiser/other channel were down 6.7% in 2017, and units in that channel have fallen steadily since 2013.
The only major category that had a unit sales decline last year was adult fiction, where units fell by less than 1%—a smaller decline than the category had in 2016. The juvenile nonfiction segment had the biggest gain last year, with units up 7.8%. The segment was led by the same two backlist titles that topped the 2016 category list: First 100 Words by Roger Priddy, which sold more than 440,000 units in 2017, and Pokemon Deluxe Essential Handbook, which sold more than 260,000 copies.
Print unit sales in the adult nonfiction category were 2.9% higher than in 2016, benefitting from the more than one million copies sold of Milk and Honey. Kaur’s most recent book, released in October, The Sun and Her Flowers, sold almost 554,000 copies through the end of the year. Within adult nonfiction, the self-help subcategory had the strongest gains, with units up 18%.
Juvenile fiction unit sales were 2.1% higher than in 2016, despite the release last year of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which sold an industry high 4.4 million print copies. The juvenile fiction segment also had the bestselling book in 2017, with print sales of Wonder topping 1.1 million.
Board books also had a good year in 2017. Unit sales of the format jumped almost 11% from 2016, to 36.9 million. Hardcover sales rose 3.6%, while unit sales of trade paperbacks increased 1.5%.
Unit sales of mass market paperbacks fell again in 2017, although the 6.4% decline was smaller than the 7.7% drop recorded the previous year. Physical audiobooks also saw a decline, as rising sales of digital audio ate into CD purchases; units fell to 3.3 million, down from 3.8 million in 2016—a 13.3% drop.
Unit Sales of Print Books, 2014–2017 (in thousands)
|Retail & Club||518,901||546,719||573,761||593,659||3.5%|
|Mass Market Paperback||71,758||64,318||59,357||55,577||-6.4%|
Source: NPD BookScan