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Bookstore Sales Fell 3.6% in 2017

15 February 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

A slump in the second half of 2017 led a decline in bookstore sales in 2017 compared to 2016. According to preliminary estimates released Wednesday morning by the U.S. Census Bureau, bookstore sales dropped 3.6% last year compared to 2016. Sales in 2017 were $10.73 billion, down from $11.14 billion in 2016.

After rising in the first part of 2017 over 2016, bookstore sales ended 2017 on a five-month losing streak, capped by a very soft December. Sales in the last month of 2017 were $1.18 billion compared to $1.29 billion in December 2016. The weak end to 2017 mirrors to some degree the experience of Barnes & Noble which reported a 6.4% decline in sales in the nine week period ended December 31, 2107 compared to the same period a year ago.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly


7 Comments to “Bookstore Sales Fell 3.6% in 2017”

  1. Just a thought and I could be WAY off in my thinking here, but if bookstores keep following the same patterns of traditional publishing, they’ll just end up in the same boat as those publishers and Barnes and Noble are. It’s sad. But maybe that’s necessary.

    • “If you keep on doing what you always did, you’ll keep on getting what you’re getting. ”

      Those are aggregate numbers that include both the prospering well-run stores, as well as B&N and the “stock it and they will come” bookstores.

      Not every store is tanking but it’s pretty Darwinian out there and getting more so.

      • What Felix said. A raft of new and innovative indie stores are coming into play and doing fine. We have one such store here that we bought from a stock-it-and-they-will-come losing mentality and we turned it around in six months. We’re even doing a kickstarter for it right now to expand it into four unused rooms.

        The problem at the moment is that the old system stores are still losing faster than can be balanced out by the newer stores. But once B&N drops away and the new world emerges, I think you will see the modern, progressive bookstores filling the space they need to fill.

  2. I was reading about used bookstores in Florida


    and was struck by this quote

    After Kendall Bookshelf closed its doors eight years ago, Rodriguez paid the property owner $200 for the 6,000 books left behind and opened her own secondhand bookshop.

    That’s about 3 cents per book.

    • I would also point out that based on a close reading of that sentence, the 6000 books had been abandoned by their owner and were sold by the owner of the property they were left at.

  3. For context:


    Nate Says:
    There are two details worth noting. The first is that these figures include everything a bookstore sells, and not just books.

    The second detail is that bookstores sales have declined almost every year since 2007, when they totaled $17.2 billion.

    Bookstore Sales 2006–2017 (in billions)

    2006 $17.02
    2007 $17.21
    2008 $16.91
    2016 $11.14
    2017 $10.73

    % Chnge 2007–10 37%



    37% drop in total sales during a period when non-book merchandise sales at bookstores has gone up.

    US book sales have been essentially flat during that time so that bookstore decline reflects a migration to online pbooks and ebooks.

    Also note that those are revenues, not unit sales. So a move from B&M to (cheaper) online and digital of some 40% reflects a pretty healthy growth in total unit sales.

    Readers are spending the same amount of money or a bit more but getting a lot more reads in return. And, of course, a good chunk of that is due to Indie, Inc.

  4. Bookmans used bookstore in Tucson and Phoenix has 6 stores and is doing very well. They sell used games, some electronics and music and musical instruments but their main push is used books. The stores are as large as B&N.

    They must be doing something right.

    Maybe it’s because they have a large stock, it’s arranged so you can find things, and the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful.

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