Print Sales Likely to Fall in 2022

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From Publishers Weekly (28 Jan 2022):

After increasing 8% in 2020 and 9% in 2021, it is unlikely that unit sales of print books will grow again in 2022, said Kristen McLean, executive director and industry analyst for NPD/BookScan Books Group in a January 26 webinar.

McLean explained that the back-to-back large sales gains in 2020 and 2021 were unprecedented in BookScan’s 18-year history and were fueled by unique circumstances related to the pandemic and the growth in interest in social justice titles after the murder of George Floyd. She doesn’t think print sales “will fall off a cliff” in 2022, but she noted that the industry should be prepared for negative sales figures in the first and second quarters of 2022 compared to the same periods in 2021. In early 2021, the industry benefitted from ongoing lockdowns, which kept people indoors and reading, as well as the arrival of child tax credit checks that spurred spending.

McLean thinks print unit sales in 2022 will fall below 2021 levels but above those of 2019, and possibly even above those of 2020. Among the challenges she sees ahead this year is the likelihood of price increases for books due to higher manufacturing and shipping costs. She noted that the industry will need to monitor consumers’ reaction to any increases carefully. Publishers and other industry members will also continue to contend with supply chain problems, as shortages of paper, packaging materials, and printing capacity are likely to persist throughout the year.

Those factors, as well as the possible easing of pandemic restrictions, may lead to more changes in consumer behavior in 2022, McLean said. For one thing, she believes customer traffic will increase in bricks-and-mortar stores, and that retailers, through changes in store layouts and marketing, are well positioned to take advantage of the higher traffic. In addition, growing concern about climate change and sustainability could lead consumers to limit their online buying, since direct sales involve lots of packaging. And while online book sales have jumped since the pandemic began, McLean believes the online channel’s market share of book sales could decline in 2022 as people return to stores.

McLean also thinks that if some books become hard to find this year due to supply chain problems, the industry could see increased e-book and used book sales, as well as increased library borrowing.

There were a number of positive trends in 2021 that should continue into 2022, according to McLean, including the impact of BookTok in driving sales. She noted that a group of 80 authors that BookScan identified as having large BookTok followings saw sales more than double last year, from a total of nine million copies sold in 2020 to 20 million in 2021. She said BookTok has been embraced by the industry and that its recommendations are being amplified by retailers such as

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

3 thoughts on “Print Sales Likely to Fall in 2022”

  1. …growing concern about climate change and sustainability…

    Does the OP read any polls of regular people? Those “concerns” are always way down on any list – frequently only brought up as a “concern” by less than one percent of those polled.

    In any case, a few billion electrons to download an ebook fit into a very tiny package – much more “sustainable” than burning evil fossil fuels to make a round trip to a bookstore to purchase a book that was shipped there.

    • Climate change concerns just got moved a wee bit on the priorities list once gas hit $7 a gallon. So did nuclear phobia.

      And in the UK they’ve started looking at a £16B solar power satellite project. And they don’t even have a BDB to loft the components.

      They must be hoping Boeing finally gets something into orbit, anything, so the FAA stops roadblocking non-union SPACEX and lets them prove STARSHIP is ready. At 150-200 tons per launch it’ll make Powersats viable befire anybody gets to the moon, fried birds be darned. 😉

      Cue the handwringers in 10…9…

  2. Duh.
    1- It’s been a decade or more that the establishment could brag of bigger dollar growth than inflation.
    2- We are in a new age of inflation and every time that happens discretionary purchases take a hit. Folks who don’t don’t drop the product/service completely, substitute cheaper versions. In the olden days of the Carter stagflation, that was MMPBs over hardcovers. Which have been deemphasized. Today’s solution to the $5 read are Indie ebooks. Or library ebooks. Or Kindle Unlimited.

    3- Inflation *before* the war was at 7%+ compared to 2.2% in 2019. The gerontocracy this week revealed their ask for NASA to keep on doing what they’re commited to (no big new initiatives and more delays on existing ones) is for an 8.3% so we can take that as the wild-eyed optimistic *minimum*. 11-12% is more likely the floor by november based on estimates of up to 70% rise in fuel prices to $130-170 a barrel.

    4- Does anybody think publishing can grow even 8% in this environent when it coukd muster 2% in 2019?

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