Bookstore sales increased an amazing 20.1% in August, to $2.05 billion, according to preliminary figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales for the entire retail market rose 4.8%. Given the weak sales reported by trade publishers in August, the gain points to several possibilities: 1) bookstores were selling lots of nonbook items; 2) college bookstores did very well in the month; 3) the Census Bureau data is flawed; or 4) book sales were much stronger than reported.

For the first eight months of 2001, bookstore sales were up 10.2%, to just under $11 billion. Sales for all of retail rose 3.3% in the period.