Last year in 2020 marked the first time since 2013 that annual e-book unit sales from leading U.S. publishers grew, increasing by 22 percent, year over year, according to The NPD Group. With many brick-and-mortar bookstores closed, due to pandemic restrictions last year, sales in the e-book format benefited. However, so far in 2021 e-book growth has slowed and monthly levels were more consistent with 2019 pre-pandemic sales. For the year-to-date through June 2021, unit sales declined by 8 percent, versus last year, but sales were still 8 percent higher than they were in 2019 before the pandemic.
“With brick-and-mortar stores closed last year, e-books were simply easier to buy than print books,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “The digital format allowed for frictionless, virus-free purchasing. Now that bookstores are open again, we expect full-year 2021 e-book volume to fall below 2020 levels, with the caveat that supply-chain disruption could cause another lift, if key books are unavailable during the holidays. Regardless, the e-book format will definitely remain a vital ongoing part of the U.S. book market — and a key format for certain categories.”
When combining print and e-book sales across all categories, e-books account for 18 percent of sales, or more than one in six books sold. In the 12 months ending June 2021, e-books lost one share point, compared to the previous year. Absolute print book sales gains were eight times more than e-book gains.
Adult fiction posted the largest e-book share, accounting for 41 percent of combined sales, but it also lost the most format share points compared to prior year, down 3 points. “January 2021 sales got a bump from Julia Quinn’s ‘Bridgerton’ book series,” McLean said. “Sales fell back to normal levels the following month and have performed more in line with 2019 volume since then.”
Lenise Willis, editor in chief; Anne-Marie Earl, managing editor; and Alex Herring, senior editor; make up the editorial team at Gifts & Decorative Accessories. The team stays on top of the latest product trends, market debuts, consumer insights and business news in order to keep retailers up to date on what’s happening in the gift industry. With the GDA team’s reports, retailers are able to raise customer engagement, diversify their product mix and more.
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