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.