With Easter Week comparisons now in the past, a clearer view of the impact of Covid-19 on sales of print books has emerged during a period in which sales steadily fell last year. Print units jumped 35.1% in the week ended April 17, 2021, over the week ended April 1, 2020, at outlets that report to NPD BookScan.
The increase was led by huge gains in the adult segments, which had seen the steepest declines last spring after the pandemic hit. Sales of adult fiction soared 72% over the comparable week in 2020, and did so without the benefit of a truly big new book. With the exception of the hobbies and crafts and humor, subcategories in all nonfiction areas had big gains, including the depressed travel segment, which saw sales soar 241% in the week.
Former Congressman John Boehner’s memoir On the House was #2 on the adult nonfiction category bestseller list, selling more than 34,000 copies in its first week on sale. Jeffrey Eisner’s The Lighter Step-By-Step Instant Pot Cookbook was #3, selling just over 31,000 copies. The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman remained #1 in the category, selling more than 36,000 copies. Last year at this time Magnolia Table, Volume 2 by Joanna Gaines sold over 82,000 copies, though sales of other nonfiction titles in the top 10 dropped off quickly.
Sales in the adult fiction category jumped nearly 49%, led by sales of graphic novels, which soared 437%. John Sandford’s Ocean Prey was #1 in the category in its first week on sale, selling over 41,000 copies. Last year, Sandford’s Masked Prey debuted at #2, selling over 29,000 copies. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was the top fiction seller at this point last year, selling about 32,000 copies. The trade paperback edition was in second place last week, selling over 21,000 copies.
The juvenile nonfiction segment continued its spring skid, with print unit sales down 25.9% compared to the similar week in 2020 as all the major subcategories in the segment posted declines. Last year, Crystal Radke’s My First Learn-to-Write Workbook was well on its way to being one of 2020’s bestselling books, selling more than 33,000 copies in the week ended April 18, 2020. Last week it was #1 again in the segment, but sold just over 7,200 copies. Through April 17, print unit sales in the juvenile nonfiction segment were up 2% over the comparable period a year ago. Sales for all print books rose 28%.