Bookstore sales dropped 17.3% in August, falling to $872 million, according to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Traditionally, August and January are two of biggest sales months for bookstores, since they incorporate the rush period at college campuses.

In compiling its bookstore statistics, the government factors in sales to college stores where sales of print textbooks continue to give way to sales of digital materials. For instance, Barnes & Noble Education, one of the nation’s largest college store chains, is making a major effort this semester to promote its First Day Complete program, which provides students with all the course materials they need—mostly digital—which are included as a fee or as part of tuition; the strategy has resulted in the decline of print textbooks. How this shift plays out will likely influence bookstore sales to some extent moving forward, although it is unclear just how much of an impact college stores have on overall sales.

For the first eight months of the year, total bookstore sales were up 1.7%, to $5.3 billion, compared to the first eight months of 2022. Total retail sales in August rose 3.4% compared to August 2022 and were up 3.1% in the year to date.