US print sales stay stable amid lockdowns

US print sales stay stable amid lockdowns

Physical books sales in the United States are holding up in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with NPD BookScan reporting that 166.9 million units had been sold in 2020 through the week ending 11th April, just a 1.3% decline on the same period in 2019.

In fact, print sales in the week ending 11th April actually rose 2.8% over the same week in 2019 with 12.5 million units rung through the tills. This was boosted by both Easter book buying and a massive spike in children's schools titles, with NPD's Juvenile Non-Fiction category jumping 80% week-on-week to 2.2 million copies sold. 

However, the Easter week flurry comes off two consecutive weeks of nearly 10% drops in sales and it is widely expected to be the last bounce in print sales before deeper Covid-19 losses hit harder as America's bricks-and-mortar bookshops ground to a halt. In March, Barnes & Noble closed the majority of its estate, while the American Booksellers Association says nearly 90% of its members had shut their doors.           

Sales in the US have undoubtedly fared better than those in the UK due to Amazon's far bigger share of the the print market across the Atlantic. Last year, New York-based research firm the Codex Group estimated that Amazon was responsible for 52% of the US print sales. NPD BookScan does not release its retail channel figures, but since the physical shops have started shutting, it removed unit sales figures from its bestsellers charts, in order not to expose retailers which have remained open. It can be therefore assumed that Amazon is responsible for the vast majority of US sales in the past month. 

Independent shops, however, have been been buoyed by Bookshop.org, an e-commerce site that allows customers to buy directly from indies. After its January 2020 launch, founder Andy Hunter told the Associated Press last week, it was selling about $5,000 worth of books a day, but by the start of April was shifting nearly $150,000 each day. 

Last week, the ABA also announced the #SaveIndieBookstores campaign had raised $710,000. The grant scheme for indies was launched on 2nd April by author James Patterson, who donated $500,000, in partnership with Hollywood star Reese Witherspoon's Reese's Book Club, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation and the ABA. 

ABA c.e.o. Allison Hill said: “this support for independent bookstores is incredibly generous. It is especially meaningful to have this support from people who recognize the cultural contributions of independent bookstores, and who appreciate the vital role that independent bookstores play in connecting readers to books, and in creating community.”