From The New York Times:
Last year, there was a clear winner among books for the holiday gift of choice: “Steve Jobs,” by Walter Isaacson. This year, despite a lineup of offerings from literary heavyweights, many of whom have commanded strong sales in the past, there has not been a breakout hit for the holiday season, booksellers say.
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While Bookscan does not include e-books and covers only roughly 75 percent of retail outlets, this year’s figures provide a snapshot of the fragmented holiday sales picture as a whole: independent bookstores report that a range of books are moving nicely, but there are mixed numbers from Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest book chain, and solid but not stellar growth in digital sales. Independent bookstore owners say they are thriving even without that surefire best seller because of a wide array of options this year.
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Peter Aaron, the owner of the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, said sales were up 15 percent over the Thanksgiving weekend and tracking well for December. In addition to “Building Stories,” he said other surprise sellers were “Dear Life,” by Alice Munro, and “Why Does the World Exist?,” by Jim Holt, a treatise that combines cosmology and philosophy. “It is not an easy book, but it is doing really well,” Mr. Aaron said.
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Small bookstores report that they are also benefiting from the popularity of Kobo e-readers, which were designed for independent bookstores and allow customers to buy e-books through the independents’ Web sites, as opposed to say, Amazon.
Steve Bercu, an owner of BookPeople in Austin, Tex., said sales were up 10 percent over last year. He said that shoppers were buying coffee-table books but were also snapping up Kobo devices. “I was a naysayer,” he said, “but they are buying the actual devices, which surprised me.”
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Sales of digital books themselves are a more complicated equation. E-book sales are growing, but at a less rapid pace than in earlier years, said Madeline McIntosh, chief operating officer of Random House. Typically, the holiday spike in e-book sales starts on Christmas Day as people who receive digital readers for gifts begin loading their devices. But this year the post-Christmas picture is less clear, Ms. McIntosh said.
“We have some questions about the post-Christmas sales dynamic,” she said. “In the first years people were getting just e-readers. This year they will be getting multifunctional tablets. You can put a lot of other media besides e-books on these, and that may somewhat diminish the ultimate focus on e-books.”
Link to the rest at The New York Times