Print book sales in the U.K. were surprisingly strong in 2020. According to preliminary results from Nielsen BookScan data, unit sales of print books hit 202 million in the year, 5.2% more than 2019. The total value of the books sold is estimated to be £1.76 billion, up 5.5% over 2019. The results for the value sold would be highest in the U.K. in more than a decade and the first time the number of print books sold surpassed 200 million since 2012, according to The Bookseller.

The figures are particularly strong, when considering bookstores were under lockdown from March 23 to June 15 and again from November 5 until December 2. The bestselling book overall was The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy.

Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the U.K. Publishers Association, said "It’s heartening to see that print sales increased last year, despite the significant challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Books are a vital source of entertainment, comfort and education and these things have been particularly necessary recently. The rise in print sales is also testament to the brilliant books that publishers have released in the past year. It is this expertise and creativity that will ensure the industry’s ongoing success in these difficult times."

Ireland too saw its strongest print book sales in more than a decade with 13.1 million units sold and valued at €161.4 million, up 7.8% and 9.5% respectively over 2019. The bestselling book overall in terms of units sold was Delia Owen’s novel Where the Crawdads Sing, while the photography book Old Ireland in Colour by Sarah-Anne Buckley was the book that generated the most revenue.