Unit sales of print books through mid-April were down 3.5% compared to a similar period a year ago at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. The time frame includes Easter sales for both 2019 and 2020.
The earlier Easter in 2019, compared to 2020, had given a boost to sales earlier this month, but led to a big decline in the week ended April 18, 2020. In that week, print unit sales fell 19.9% compared to the week ended April 11, which was the last week before Easter. Sales in both juvenile categories had big drops compared to the prior week, with juvenile fiction sales down 34% and juvenile nonfiction sales falling 29.4%. Both categories had enjoyed strong sales in the prior week due to the popularity of titles related to Easter, as well as to sales of education books.
Print unit sales in adult nonfiction fell 12.5% last week, with the religion and humor segments posting declines of 36.1% and 31.4%, respectively, compared to the prior week. Adult fiction sales actually rose, up 5.5%, helped by the release of Masked Prey by John Sandford, which sold 29,000 copies in its first week on sale.
The 3.5% decline in print units through April 18 was due to declines in both adult segments. Adult nonfiction unit sales of print books were down 9.9% at outlets that report to BookScan, and sales of adult fiction dropped 3.2%. Juvenile nonfiction has benefited the most from children being home rather than in school during the pandemic, with units up 21.7% over the comparable period a year ago. Juvenile fiction unit sales were ahead 0.4% though April 18.
In direct weekly comparisons to the week ended April 20, 2019, the final week before Easter last year, sales last week were down 29.4%. Sales of adult nonfiction took the biggest hit, dropping 38.6% last week compared to a year ago, and juvenile fiction sales were down 34.5%.