BookNet Canada’s 2016 Snapshot: Nonfiction Lags Fiction

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Statistics from BookNet Canada reveal the best-selling books of 2016, along with a stable Canadian book market and growing online book sales.

Book formats purchased in Canada on a quarterly basis, in 2015 and 2016. Image: BookNet Canada

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

A Brief Overview of Canada’s Market, 2016

Data collected by BookNet Canada indicates that 2016 consumer purchases in audiobook and hardcover formats remained “relatively flat,” without strong growth detected in either.

In a statement released Monday (January 30) ahead of its annual The Canadian Book Market publication, the nonprofit trade organization founded in 2002, writes:

  • “In 2016, audiobook purchases made up, on average, 2.6 percent of total book purchases while in 2015 it was 2.2 percent.
  • “Hardcover book purchases accounted for 24.2 percent in 2015 and went down only slightly to 23.9 percent in 2016.”

BookNet reports a decline for ebooks from 2015 to 2016, from some 19 percent of total book purchases in 2015 to 16.9 percent in 2016.

There is, however, a small rise seen in paperback purchases, the preview reports, from 51.1 percent in 2015 to an average 54.2 percent in 2016.

Units Sold in Canada, 2016

Units sold in Canada, 2015 and 2016. Image: BookNet Canada

Sales of books in units in Canada saw a decline, according to the BookNet overview, a decrease of 6.4 percent for all subjects to 36.1 million.

The report says that while fiction and nonfiction followed suit, the juvenile divisions, including YA, were “virtually flat” between 2015 and 2016.

Of specific categories, nonfiction saw the greatest unit drop, at a 10.4-percent decrease. Fiction was very close to the average decline, at 6.7 percent.

Value Comparisons in Canada, 2015 and 2016

Value of sales in Canada, 2015 and 2016. Image: BookNet Canada

The value of sales in 2016 seems to have decreased a bit less than units, a decline of 3.6 percent from 2015 to 2016 to CA$740.4 million (US$564).

Juvenile books showed a gain in values of sales, up 6.7 percent in 2016 over 2015.

The largest drop in value, as in units, was in nonfiction, where the value of sales in 2016 was off 7.1 percent from 2015. In fiction, the decrease was 5.6 percent.

“Distribution over the channel categories,” according to this preview of more detailed information to come, “remained much the same from 2015 to 2016.

“Online channels (including online, mobile app, and ebook/audio) increased from 46.2 percent in 2015 to 48.0 percent in 2016. Physical channels (including chains, bookstores, general, discount, book clubs, and grocery) decreased from 53.7 percent in 2015 to 52.0 percent in 2016.”

The five top-selling books for 2016 in Canada were, in decreasing order of sales:

  1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
  2. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  4. 99 by Wayne Gretzy
  5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #11: Double Down by Jeff Kinney

BookNet’s information comes from its SalesData program uses point-of-sales input from more than 2,000 retail outlets across Canada. It’s reported to cover some 85 percent of the Canadian print book market.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. Prior to that he was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, a channel at The Bookseller focused on digital publishing. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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