With sales in all categories posting double-digit increases, sales for the 1,358 publishers that report results to the AAP’s StatShot program rose 22.3% over the comparable period in 2020 for the first quarter of 2021. The quarterly increase was given a boost by sales in March, which jumped 40.2% over March 2020. In the second half of March last year, sales declined as the impact of the pandemic began to take hold.
The AAP report is in keeping with an earlier report from the U.S. Census Bureau, which found that bookstore sales had a 34.7% rebound in March compared to last year. Financial announcements by several of the largest trade publishers corroborated the data, with five reporting solid first-quarter sales increases.
In the trade area, AAP reported that sales of adult titles increased 27.6% in the quarter, while sales in the children’s/young adult category rose 23.3%. Both segments benefitted from lower returns and higher gross sales. (AAP calculates net sales by subtracting returns from gross sales.)
In the adult category, print sales slightly outperformed digital sales. Hardcover sales jumped by 43.1%, mass market increased 37.5%, and trade paper rose 21.3%. Downloadable audio sales increased 20.1% in the quarter, and e-books were up 17%.
In the children’s/YA category, the still-small digital categories had a good quarter, with e-book sales jumping 66.1% over 2020 and downloadable audio up 31.3%. Hardcover sales had an 30.9% increase, paperback rose 18.4%, and board books were up 9.8%.
In the other publishing segments, the educational segments had solid gains in the quarter, with sales of K-12 instructional materials rising 24% and higher educational course materials increasing 17.8%. Both categories benefitted from huge March increases over last year, with the higher ed segment reporting a 179% jump and K-12 a 81.5% gain.
In addition, religious book sales increased 12.8% in the quarter, professional book sales rose 12.7%, and sales of university presses increased 11.9%.