Covid-19 Jumpstarts Book Sales in Some Genres

Covid-19 Jumpstarts Book Sales in Some Genres

By John W Prince, Partner & Creative Director, Hallard Press

Since March 13, 2020 (which I credit as being “C-day” of Covid-19 in the US) book sales have surged online and fallen in the bricks-and-mortar shops.

“Of course,” you might say. “When people have enforced leisure, they turn to TV and books to fill in the time.” 

The New York Times reports that book sales in March fell by eight percent in March; the steepest declines in educational publishing. Audio books sales have risen 16.6 percent over the same period in 2019 with children’s audio books jumping over 46 percent during March. (It’s obvious that parents are not relying on just TV shows to keep the kids amused which they Zoom to the office.)

The Association of American Publishers, citing stats for March 2020 (the latest month for which figures are available), note that sales of adult titles jumped 3.3 percent while children’s and young adult book sales rose 4.4 percent. Religions publishers took a hit with a 5.7 percent reduction and K-12 instructional materials took a big 24 percent drop as schools closed.

In the UK (where, my personal opinion, people read more than they do in the US) The Guardian reports “In the week the UK’s biggest book chain, Waterstones, finally shut its stores after staff complained that they felt at risk from the coronavirus, its online sales were up by 400% week on week. It reported a “significant uplift” on classic–and often timely–titles including Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.”

Oddly, The Guardian reports, “Adult non-fiction, however, was down by 13%, as readers sought solace in imaginary worlds.”

Waterstone’s CEO, James Daunt, is also the new CEO of Barnes & Noble, and is bringing the “local author” concept to this side of the pond. When the bookstores reopen fully, expect the new policy to be implemented.Back in the US again, Publishers Weekly reports that, “For the quarter ended April 4, print unit sales were down just 1.3% compared to the first quarter of 2019.” Not surprisingly, sales of humor books rose 24.8 percent, followed by religious books at 23.7 percent. Zane Grey fans take note: sales of adult westerns rose a whopping 60.8 percent. For more detailed information go the PW site

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