NPD Projects US Print Book Unit Sales 17 Percent Above 2019

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Year-to-date book sales in the American market are looking likely to converge with that of 2020 at 8 percent growth, reports Kristen McLean at NPD Books.

The Cartier Building on Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street in Manhattan, November 19. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Serge Yatunin

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

‘Four More Holiday Weeks to Go’
In today’s release (December 13) of its United States print books weekly media report for the week ending December 4, Kristen McLean, executive director and industry analyst with NPD Books and Entertainment, shows the American publishing industry pressing into the holiday run with the strength that has distinguished it and several other world book markets in the second year of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

McLean writes, “2021 and 2020 are converging as we reach the end of the year.

“This past week was essentially flat” in comparison to the same week in 2020, she reports, “crossing the 25-million-unit mark about a week earlier than the seasonal norms set in 2019 and 2018, and two weeks earlier than 2017.

“The market finished the week  up 10 percent on a year-to-date volume of 726 million units, which is 67 million units ahead of 2020, and 118 million units ahead of 2019.

Kristen McLean

“If we finish the year as we project at 8 percent higher, year-over-year, on a unit basis, that will be 17 percent higher than 2019, a finish none of us would have foreseen on January 1, 2020.”

And this time, McLean has included what NPD Group calls its “Total Market Retail Thermometer” (from its “Retail Center of Excellence” material), to get a look at the sales revenue performance of all other non-book retail that NPD tracks as a percentage of 2019 performance.

“2021 has already exceeded 2019 by 4 percent,” McLean announces, “with four more holiday weeks to go.”

NPD’s ‘Total Market Retail Thermometer’

In NPD’s “Total Market Retail Thermometer” view, the year-to-date 2021 US dollars rating has exceeded that of 2019, five weeks into the holiday season.

“Year-to-date total market dollar sales for all the non-book industries NPD tracks,” McLean says, “has already exceeded both 2019 and 2020 with several weeks to go. However, this strong growth is really about higher prices.

Image: The NPD Group, Retail Center of Excellence

“For instance, during Black Friday week, units were up just +3 percent, but the average selling price (ASP) was +10 percent, giving the market +14 percent growth in US dollars that week. Despite higher prices, consumers are still buying, which is expected to give the United States a strong holiday season overall.”

In her look at the week-over-week performance of print, as of the week ending December 4, McLean sees the US market reaching 25 million units in weekly volume with four weeks to go to complete the year.

Unit sales rose 6 million  units over the previous week and were essentially flat by comparison to the same week in 2020.

Year-to-date performance is “coming together with that of 2020,” McLean says, “and it’s increasingly likely that we’ll converge at 8 percent year to date,” which would put the American book market 17-percent ahead of 2019 and 16 percent ahead of 2018.

You see this coming-together in the chart McLean provides us today for year-to-date performance.

Source: NPD Group/NPD BookScan through December 4, 2021, US print sales only

In content trends, McLean sees fiction dominating the American Top 10 in print, but its’ Brené Brown’s nonfiction self-help guide Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience (Penguin Random House, November 30) that stands in the No. 1 spot.

JK Rowling’s The Christmas Pig (Scholastic, October 12), with its illustrations by Jim Field, is at No. 6 and currently listing as sold out at Scholastic’s site but available at larger digital retailers.

And Chanda Aebersold and Chanda Bell’s The Elf on the Shelf is back (B&N Distribution, 2005) with illustrations by Coë Steinwart and standing at No. 7.


More on the United States market is here, more on the NPD Group’s reports is here, and more from Publishing Perspectives on political books is here. More from us on industry statistics is here.

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

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was 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 now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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