Is the book sales boom finally over?

After climbing 18.9% in the first half of 2021 compared to the comparable period of 2020, print book unit sales fell in the first half of 2022, falling 6.6% compared to 2021 levels. According to NPD BookScan , total print sales in the first half were 362.6 million, compared to 386.6 million a year ago. All major categories except adult fiction posted declines, with the largest decline coming from the industry’s largest category, adult non-fiction, where print sales fell by 10.3%.

Mid-2022 sales were still around 15% higher than the first six months of 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, which many industry players use as a benchmark, in light of the surprisingly strong following two years of the pandemic. . The 6.6% decline is also an improvement over the first quarter, which saw an 8.9% drop in sales compared to the first quarter of last year.

Much has been made of the lackluster sales of the first listing again this year, and it was evident in the data from BookScan. Primary list sales fell 11.7% in the first half of 2022, while secondary list sales fell 4.1%, according to BookScan.

Nine titles at the top of the list (defined as books released in the past 12 months) were among the top 20 bestsellers in the first half, led by two Colleen Hoover titles: Truth achieved sales of nearly 704,000 copies, and Reminders of him had sales of approximately 419,000 copies. Hoover, of course, is one of BookTok’s big beneficiaries, and five of his books made the top 20 list year-to-date.

Helped by Hoover and other BookTok favorites, sales of adult fiction rose 4.6% in the first half of 2022. The romance genre saw the biggest rise with sales up 33%. Sales of graphic novels, which ended 2021 with a triple-digit increase over 2020, have seen a 10.5% increase so far this year. Sales of Westerns posted the biggest six-month decline, dropping 20%.

The decline in adult non-fiction is not due to weakness at the top of the bestseller chart. Atomic Habits by James Clear was No. 1 on the adult non-fiction list so far in 2022, selling around 694,000 copies, more than the 396,000 copies sold in the first six months of 2021 and also ahead of the 455,000 copies The hill we climb by Amanda Gorman sold in the first half of 2021, making it the bestseller in the category at the time.

The drop in adult nonfiction sales came in categories such as general nonfiction, where sales fell 17.7%; benchmark, which recorded a 16.1% drop in sales; and biography/autobiography/memoirs, sales of which fell 15.3%. In fact, the only adult nonfiction subcategory that saw an increase in sales in the first half of 2021 was travel, which grew 14.3%.

Every children’s fiction subcategory saw a decline in sales compared to the first half of 2021, with the largest drop in the classics subcategory, where sales fell 14.4%. All but one of the children’s non-fiction subcategories saw sales decline (Holidays/Festivals/Religion saw a 4.8% increase). The biggest drop came in social/family/health situations, where sales fell 23%.

Results were more mixed in the young adult category, where declines were relatively modest, with fiction down 2.7% and non-fiction down 3.4%. YA General Fiction sales increased 14.9% and Supernatural/Horror sales increased 11%. These gains were offset by declines in several categories, including a 10% drop in YA’s largest subcategory, sci-fi/fantasy/magic.

Sales fell in all print formats. The consumer paperback was the hardest hit, with sales down 20.4%.

A version of this article originally appeared in the 11/7/2022 issue of Weekly editors under the title: A return to normal?