Since early March, when the Covid-19 pandemic began, adults have been purchasing books to keep their children occupied during the long hours in isolation, driving sales of educational workbooks and coloring books. But they are also on the hunt for activities for themselves, both to while away the hours and to reduce anxiety and stress.
As a result, puzzle books, coloring books, and even joke books for adults have seen strong sales over the past seven weeks, publishers report. They have seen sales increases for these categories both at online retailers and in the mass stores that have remained open, including Target, Walmart, grocery stores, and dollar chains.
Puzzle books, from crosswords and sudoku to search-and-finds, are up across the board, for example. “One interesting thing is that the demographic seems to be expanding,” says Andrew Steinberg, president of the Modern Publishing division at Kappa Books Publishers, a leading purveyor of puzzle books. “You’re seeing sales from millennials, college age, and even a little younger.”
Bendon Publishing has noted increases in adult puzzle books as well, along with a resurgence in adult coloring titles. Overall, sales of its puzzle, coloring, and workbook titles for all ages sold through mass channels are up 150% to 200% during the pandemic compared to the same period last year, and adult coloring and puzzle books are among the top sellers, according to Ben Ferguson, Bendon president and CEO.
Fox Chapel Publishing, which is a long-time leader in adult coloring books and has a fast-growing children’s business, has also seen a notable resurgence in the category. “We’ve seen a big spike since four weeks ago for coloring books, for both adults and children,” said David Miller, president and COO. “It’s nice to see adult coloring up again.”
The growth in adult coloring titles—which tend to attract not only adults but customers as young as tweens—is boosting backlist tites as well as driving newer releases. Debra Dorfman, Scholastic’s v-p and publisher, global licensing, brands, and media, said that the first Harry Potter Coloring Book, an adult-style title with all-ages appeal, has been doing very well in recent weeks. It was published in 2015.
Meanwhile, some coloring titles that are firmly for children are also taking off with adults. “Our Lisa Frank coloring books are really selling, and that’s driven partly by millennials who are looking for comforting things from their childhood,” Steinberg said.
Rosanne McManus, v-p and publisher of the Studio Fun International and Silver Dolphin imprints at Readerlink’s Printers Row Publishing Group, said the company’s adult imprints are seeing high interest in activity books priced as high as $14 or $15, with several titles having been reprinted in recent weeks.
The pandemic has also propelled a rise in humor books for adults. A case in point: Printers Row’s Dad Jokes. This is a perennial title driven by gift-giving at Father’s Day, but it has become a standout since the crisis began, McManus said.