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Bookstore Sales Had First Gain in Eight Years in 2015

15 February 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Bookstores sales rose 2.5% in 2015, marking the first time since 2007 that sales in the sector were up. According to preliminary figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau, total bookstore sales in 2015 hit $11.17 billion, up from $10.89 billion in 2014.

The numbers come after continued signs about the category strengthening. Sales from bookstores were strong throughout 2015, with December sales having risen 8.7%, to $1.42 billion. That bricks and mortar locations are performing so well will not be a surprise to anyone following the sales trend of books for the year, which showed print sales on the rise and e-book sales on the decline.

. . . .

  Even with the increase in sales last year, total bookstore sales were still far off from there high point in 2007, when sales were over $17 billion.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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29 Comments to “Bookstore Sales Had First Gain in Eight Years in 2015”

  1. But, did they sell enough to make up for the loses cause by the agency model imposed on ebooks?

    • How much of that % was actual books, and not other geegaws and doodads?

      • I was going to ask the same thing. With the shrinking bookshelves of B&N, how much of the increase was in actual sales of books? I’d LOVE to see a breakdown of numbers. I doubt the sales of coloring books boosted them up 2.5%

        • It might have. I bought 7 coloring books and 3 Funco Pop figurines in a bookstore as Christmas gifts in December. From what I could see they were doing a bang up not-book Christmas trade. 🙂

          • Personally, I don’t think coloring books (though highly entertaining) should be counting as print ‘book’ sales. That’s just my personal opinion 🙂

            • They definitely count them, though. 🙂

            • It didn’t say print book sales. It said sales. And bookstores don’t care what they sell, as long as people are coming through the doors and buying something, it means they still have a business model.

      • And how much was new vs used?

      • Bookstores also don’t care about that. They are stores. If profit goes up, they still have a business.

    • Physical Bookstores don’t care about the agency model, because they are on wholesale.

  2. The U.S. Census Bureau monitors bookstore sales?

    Um, okay. If they say bookstores are doing better, I’m sure it’s true. I’m sure their figures are way more accurate than, say, the Author Earnings report. ::eyeroll::

    • The USCB gets those figures from quarterly earnings reports as part of its job to keep track of the GDP and other things.

  3. It’s hard to tell with everyone reporting numbers with different standards, but comparing this report of bookstore sales to this report of publisher sales it looks as if bookstore sales may have grown less than overall print sales (that’s before figuring the gee-gaw factor). Someone else must be making up the difference.

    • In the most recent authorearnings report, they suggest that it is Amazon who is benefiting the most from increased print sales. This is ironic, as supposedly the big 5 raised ebook prices in part to reduce Amazon’s dominance of the book selling business.

      • Yeah, the qig5 is in trouble no matter what they try to do to Amazon.

        Agency? Makes sure Amazon gets their 30% off of every ebook sale since they aren’t allowed to discount it — and it makes sure the publisher, Apple and all the rest can’t go any lower either — making it a game of ‘what’s best/easiest in the buyer’s mind.

        Hard/paperback books? Amazon can discount them deeper than the bookstores; no long trip, no nasty stores or clerks to deal with, right to your door easy.

        Why didn’t the qig5 agency the hard/paperback books? because then the bookstores can’t claim there’s any discount either …

        They’re going to have to clean up their acts in so many ways, and they don’t want to lose their profits on what little they are selling to do it, so they will sink rather than swim …

  4. If the high growth year was 2007, how does year-over-year income increase compare against other sectors that are also still recovering from the recession?
    (…yes, I’m implying that factors other than Amazon have affected b&m businesses …)

  5. As one who has spent some quality time with the Census bureau figures for bookstore sales, I can tell you that those dollars aren’t just from the sales of books. A retail store picks one category and reports all their sales in that category. Those categories appear to have been set sometime before the 1950’s with a few late additions. So there is no direct link between publisher sales and bookstore sales.

    • B&N’s 2015 Annual Report shows a 4.8% drop in total sales (not counting college stores) and a slight increase in profit. That might indicate a shift to general merchandise, which has a higher margin.
      Perhaps the lion’s share of bookstore sales increase comes from the independants?

  6. I wonder if any of the Big 5 ponder whether they would have made even more money if they went with Amazon’s recommendation for e-book pricing. Or do they just cling to the notion that print books are making a comeback?

  7. Even with the increase in sales last year, total bookstore sales were still far off from there high point in 2007, when sales were over $17 billion.

    They need an editor. *winces*

  8. Could the increase in sales have anything to do with the lower unemployment rate? I know my discretionary income shrank alarmingly for a few years there. The library got more of my business than my local, extremely cool bookstore.

    • Doubtful.
      Official unemployment numbers are cooked,, mostly by not counting those “permanently” unemployed who aren’t actively looking anymore.

      Adult coloring books and lifestyle merchandise is where the money is coming from. Bookstores are moving upscale to survive.

  9. “That bricks and mortar locations are performing so well will not be a surprise to anyone following the sales trend of books for the year, which showed print sales on the rise and e-book sales on the decline.”
    There is so much in this statement. Agency pricing was designed to keep print viable, from what I gather. And this, I suspect they would say, is what is happening. However, the general trend for print will continue to be a downward line over time. The double-edged sword, nevertheless, is a decline in their big, fat profit margins on ebooks.

    And, it should always be noted, when you read “ebook sales [are] on the decline,” they are talking about *big publishing* ebooks. It just gets put out there as if it means ebooks in general. They are not talking about Indies. Ebooks overall are booming. And they will continue to do so.

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