NPD BookScan’s perspective on first-quarter book sales

“Overall, the US book market is performing very well by historical standards,” said Kristen McLean of NPD BookScan.

A photo taken April 9 of Manhattan from Long Island City. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Jayson Photography

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

Albanese: “Still up around 16% compared to the first quarter of 2020”

AAs we mentioned earlier this week, we are in a period of post-travel coverage efforts here, working with news items that we believe are important to our readership, but in some cases with a bit of a delay. because the planned close proximity of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the London Book Fair and the Regional Conference of Caucasus and Black Sea Countries Publishing in Tbilisi on the schedule. And as a vantage point, much of the year can go by like this.

As more and more editing events return to all-physical evocations, their timing — never a model of cooperative grace or concern for jet-lagged colleagues who have to be at other events — may clash again. more frequently. We continue to urge all book fair and trade show administrations, such as award organizers, to remember that there are 52 weeks in a year. Piling dates on top of each other like the cities of Troy has never helped a deserving publishing program get the attendance, recognition, or media coverage it deserves. “Space”, of all things, can be a good thing, you see.

As it happens, the NPD report released on Monday April 11 shows that the US market performed worse in the week ending April 2 than some might have been fooled.

With her usual care to try to avoid scary headlines, Kristen McLean of NPD BookScan writes, “While U.S. print book sales in March lagged 1.8 million units over the five previous weeks, overall, the US book market performed very well by historical standards.

Kristen McLean

“However, 2021 was well above historical standards, which creates negative comps across all areas of the business, which is why benchmarking against historical views is very important.

“The book market is doing well overall, but weak sales are expected to continue after Easter in the broader U.S. retail landscape as domestic and global uncertainty, supply chain issues supply and price inflation on non-discretionary categories are causing consumers to tighten their belts. . We will know for sure next month.

As shrewdly as McLean says “what goes up must come down”, there are those who have been alarmed by this week’s news, apparently expecting COVID-19 to be some sort of permanent reminder of the market in a new orbit. .

On ‘Velocity of Content’: ‘None of this is unexpected’

In today’s (April 15) “Velocity of Content” podcast by Christopher Kenneally of the Copyright Clearance Center, in fact, weekly regular Andrew Albanese of Weekly editors says the obvious: “We shouldn’t be so alarmed and it’s really not surprising, and it’s not as bad as the title suggests. But that’s not great news either. To the right? So what’s the news?

“Well, these are the quarterly numbers from NPD BookScan and they show print book unit sales fell 8.9% in the first quarter, which ended April 2, over the same period in 2021.

“Today, 8.9% is quite a high number,” Albanese points out, “and especially after the steady growth we’ve seen over the past two years. But again, none of this is unexpected.

“Remember, Q1 2021 sales were crazy. They were up 29.2% in the first period of 2020.

“So while sales are down from a year ago, they are still up about 16% from the first quarter of 2020 and the approximately 183 million units sold in the first quarter of 2022 are still well above the 156 million units sold in the first quarter. quarter of 2019.

McLean: Easter sales could be ‘weaker this year than last’

McLean makes good points that are worth considering before reacting with undue alarm (not that US industry would ever react to anything with undue alarm, of course).

“While adult nonfiction remains down for the year,” she wrote, “overall sales are well within historical ranges through the end of the first quarter. I think this is particularly notable because this performance comes at a time when there is no overriding reason, such as a political cycle, or market bestsellers to support the numbers in areas like cooking or lifestyle.

“On the children’s side, we are starting to see sales in the Easter categories kick off, although there are signs that the holidays will be milder this year than last. This resonates with other areas of retail tracked by NPD, including toys and apparel.

We’ll offer you a group of charts as they appear in McLean’s newsletter this week, so you can examine the signals she’s seeing here.

Image: NPD BookScan / NPD Group

In the US market bestsellers in March, McLean sees:

To learn more about the US market, click here, click here to learn more about NPD Group reports, and click here to learn more about industry statistics in Publishing Perspectives. To learn more about the Copyright Clearance Center, click here.

And MOre on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter Google+

Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.