Wednesday, January 17, 2007

November Bookstore Sales Down

There was a small item in today's Publishers' Weekly. It was so small that I almost missed it. I'm repeating it here in its entirety:

The U.S. Census Bureau reported last week that bookstore sales in November dropped 1.7%, to $1.09 billion. For the first 11 months of 2006, bookstore sales were down 1.8%, to $14.16 billion. For the entire retail segment, sales rose 4.9% in November and 6.3% in the year to date.

Let's be clear on what this item says. It does not say that book sales were down. It says that bookstore sales were down 1.8% for the year-to-date while overall retail sales were up 6.3% for the same period.

For argument's sake, let's just say that book sales aren't down. To be fair, let's say they aren't up either. Let's just say that they're flat
--neither up or down for the period in question.

So, if people are still buying books, but bookstore sales are down, where are they buying their books?

Could it be that readers are purchasing their books online? Not from bookstores (which would have shown up in the retail figures), but directly from online publishers or other retailers?

If book sales were flat, the difference isn't a lot in the total scheme of things--only about $250 million dollars. [grin]

But, if book sales were up--commensurate with other retail sales--we could be talking some serious money.

In the last month, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Books-A-Million all reported their holiday sales were disappointing.

So, what's going on? You tell me.


Marie Tuhart said...


I have to say I've done more book shopping online last year than I've ever done before. So, I'd have to say you're right people are shopping online rather than in the bookstores.

Also, the publishers are getting more savvy about selling books on their own websites, and usually at a discounted price. Not to mention most of them have some sort of bookclubs.

As for Borders and Barnes & Noble reporting their holiday sales were disappointing. I have to wonder, because I was in both of my local stores and it was the first time in a long time there were actually more than 10 people in the store at once.

Maya Reynolds said...

Marie: When Barnes & Noble and Borders reported their holiday sales were disappointing, they were comparing those sales to their own expectations.

Your comment is right in line with where my thinking headed after this post. See my post for tomorrow, 1/18.