Print is facing significant challenges, but online sales are growing.
The widespread closures of bookstores, libraries, and schools have led to deflated print sales in recent weeks.
These challenges impacting print sales (and the bookstores, authors, and publishers who depend on those sales) are likely to continue while businesses remain closed. But while in-person print sales have dropped, many readers are placing orders online instead. There’s also been significant growth in online print sales from independent bookstores.
Readers are turning to ebooks
This shift toward purchasing books online has also impacted digital book sales. Publishers Weekly say that the ebook and audiobook retailer is seeing a spike in new account sign-ups and purchases similar to what they’d see around the holidays. An ebook distributor for self-published authors, reported increased ebook purchases across all platforms: “While we did see ebook sales slow down during the first couple of weeks following the ‘safer at home’ directive, things have recovered very well. All retailers are up by an average of 25%, and libraries are up by over 130%.”
Authors and publishers are also reporting increased digital sales. Quercus, an imprint of Hachette UK, shared with The Bookseller that, “like the rest of Hachette, we’re seeing big double-digit growth in the baseline of our digital sales — both ebook and audio — year-on-year for the corresponding weeks.” This sentiment has been echoed by many of our publisher partners recently. And when we reached out to a handful of our author partners, many of them shared that they’ve been seeing steady or increased ebook sales during this period. Results for individual authors are varying significantly based on their genres, book prices, and marketing budgets and strategies, but in aggregate author ebook sales appear to be up right now.
Readers are using books to cope in different ways
The coronavirus crisis has impacted the kinds of books readers, and particularly parents, are seeking out. It’s been widely reported that sales of books for kids, and especially nonfiction and learning books, have skyrocketed in response to school closures. Religious holidays in early April contributed to this even further — in the week ending April 11, juvenile nonfiction print sales rose 16% over the previous week, and juvenile fiction rose 26%, both driven by increases in the “holidays/festivals/religion” book categories.
The trends for adult readers are less obvious, but there are a few genres that are standing out. Some adult readers seem to be tackling books that may have been languishing on their “to be read” lists. One of Barnes & Noble’s top trending categories right now is “40 Books You Always Meant to Read,” and Chirp’s Classics category has seen one of the largest percent increases in sales during this time, perhaps because listeners are catching up on seminal works they’ve been meaning to pick up for years.
Others are looking for books to bring them comfort. “11 Feel-Good Books to Read Right Now” is one of the most popular recent articles on BookBub, and Barnes & Noble’s “Feel Good Fiction” list, which includes similar lighthearted, uplifting novels, is also trending. Google searches for topics like “uplifting books” and “happy books” have increased.
There has been consistent interest and online searches for Bios & Memoirs, Thrillers, Psychological Thrillers, Christian Nonfiction, YA Fiction, and Science Fiction categories.
Readers are looking for affordable books, but still buying full price too
In a time of economic uncertainty, it’s no surprise that readers would be seeking out more affordable books. Google searches for “free books” have been trending since the beginning of March. However, discriminating readers are still purchasing books at full price if it is something they really want.
This is a turbulent time for the publishing industry. Many bookstores, publishers, and authors are facing significant challenges due to the impact on their print sales from store closures. However, one thing that seems clear is that people are still seeking out books to help them learn, escape, find solace, and cope at this time.
Hat Tip! Adapted from an article by Carlyn Robertson of BookBub.
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