Unit sales of print books are proving to be surprisingly resilient despite the massive disruption to the economy caused by the coronavirus. Unit print sales rose 10.1% last week compared to the week ended April 18 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. Sales were nearly flat with units sold in the period ended April 27, 2019, and in the year-to-date, units were down 3.2% compared to a year ago.
BookScan estimates that it captures about 85% of print books sold through physical and online retailers who sell books. The service, however, does not record sales to libraries—and with many libraries closed, trade publishers who do significant business through that channel are likely seeing softer sales.
The adult nonfiction category had the strongest performance among the major publishing segments, with units increasing 24.7% last week over the previous week. The religious segment posted a 54.4% increase, led by the release of Jen Hatmaker’s Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire which sold more than 17,000 copies. Another new release, Medical Medium Cleanse to Heal by Anthony William, sold more than 11,000 copies.
Adult fiction also had a sales gain last week, with print units up 8.1%. Sales of romance books rose 26.8%, led by solid debuts of four new releases including First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn, which sold more than 8,500 copies. Sales of religious books increased 21.7%.
The juvenile categories, which have been enjoying solid sale gains since the outbreak of the coronavirus, had a quiet week. Juvenile fiction sales rose 2.5% over the prior week, with an 11.4% increase in sales in social situations/family/health helping to offset declines in some other categories including science fiction/fantasy/magic, where sales were down 5%.
Sales of print units dipped by less than 1% in juvenile nonfiction. The history/sports/people/places segment had the biggest decline last week, with units off 5.5%. The games/activities/hobbies and the holiday/festival/religion segments both had 5% sales declines. Print unit sales in the concepts category rose 10.6%.