Following a difficult 2008 in which the recession resulted in a 1.8% decline in bookstore sales, publishers and booksellers were looking for a rebound in 2009. Instead, sales fell again, dropping 0.8%, to $16.60 billion, their lowest level since 2003. The greatest disappointment was sales in the final quarter. Facing easy comparisons to the last quarter of 2008, when the financial stress was at its greatest, bookstore sales still fell in October, November, and December. The strongest gains in 2009 came in September, helped by the release of The Lost Symbol and back-to-school buying (figures include sales from college bookstores). By comparison, Amazon reported that North American media sales rose 20% in the last period and were up 11.5% for all of 2009.