Figures from three different sources provide further documentation of the sales slump plaguing the book industry. Data released late last week by the U.S. Census Bureau show that the decline in bookstore sales that began in September accelerated in October, with sales in October off 5.6%, to $1.06 billion. The figures are consistent with those for the major bookstore chains, which reported that after slowing in September, sales took a significant downturn in October.
The October slowdown at retail is also reflected in the monthly sales estimates from the Association of American Publishers, which showed sales falling 25% in the adult hardcover segment and 23% in the trade paperback segment in the month. The decline was the result of a significant drop in gross sales and a steep increase in returns. Results were slightly better in the children’s segment, where paperback sales were off 14.8% and hardcover sales rose by less than 1%.
While Nielsen BookScan figures showed some improvement over the Thanksgiving week, figures for the week ended December 7 showed a resumption in the overall downward trend. Total unit sales fell 6.7% in the week ended Dec. 7, 2008, compared to the week ended Dece. 9, 2007, according to BookScan. The adult segment had the worst week; adult nonfiction units were off 20.9% at the outlets that report data to BookScan. Juvenile fiction continued to be the strongest segment, with units up 24.1%.
By format, unit sales of trade paperbacks declined 7.8% in the week, consistent with publisher reports that sales of backlist titles have been the hardest hit by the soft market. Unit sales of hardcovers slipped by less than 1%, to 6.7 million, while mass market unit sales also fell by less than 1%, to just below 2.5 million. Audio units were down 24.1% and calendars off 29.1%.
|CATEGORY||% CHANGE October||% CHANGE YTD|
|(Measured in $ sales against same time periods, 2007) |
* Number of reporting companies.
NM=Returns exceeded gross sales by $32.8 million in October 2008 and exceeded gross sales by $6 million in October 2007.
|Adult Hard (17)*||-25.0%||-13.1%|
|Adult Paper (18)||-23.0||4.1|
|Mass Market (9)||6.3||1.3|
|Juvenile Hard (13)||-0.8||23.4|
|Juvenile Paper (14)||-14.8||6.1|
|Higher Ed. (10)||NM||3.7|
|Univ. Pr. Hard (38)||-20.4||-8.5|
|Univ. Pr. Paper (38)||-13.9||-7.3|
|Sales in units||12/9/2007||12/7/2008*||% Change|
| *all sales exclude NonTraditional store Figures |
Source: Nielsen BookScan
|Source: U.S. Census Bureau|
|Total, 10 months||13,658||13,833||1.3|