Print book unit sales expected to fall in 2022

After growing 8% in 2020 and 9% in 2021, print book unit sales are unlikely to grow again in 2022, said Kristen McLean, executive director and industry analyst for NPD/BookScan Books Group during of a webinar on January 26.

McLean said the back-to-back strong sales gains in 2020 and 2021 were unprecedented in BookScan’s 18-year history and were fueled in part by unique circumstances caused by the pandemic as well as other developments, such as the growing interest in social justice. headlines after the murder of George Floyd, which won’t reappear in 2022. McLean said she doesn’t think print sales will “fall off a cliff” in 2022, but noted the industry should prepare to negative comparable sales figures in the first and second quarters of 2022 compared to 2021, when the industry benefited from the ongoing shutdowns, which kept people indoors and reading, as well as the arrival of child tax credit checks which stimulated spending. McLean believes unit print sales will end 2022 below 2021 levels but above 2019 levels, and may stabilize somewhere between 2020 and 2021 levels.

Among the challenges McLean foresees in 2022 is the likelihood of increases in book prices due to rising manufacturing and shipping costs, noting that the industry will need to monitor consumer reaction to price increases. . Publishers and other industry members will also face supply chain challenges in 2022 as shortages of paper, packaging materials and printing capacity are expected to persist throughout the year. Those factors, along with what the easing of pandemic restrictions might be, could lead to more changes in consumer behavior this year, McLean said. On the one hand, she believes that customer traffic will increase in physical stores and that retailers, through changes in store layout and marketing, are well positioned to take advantage of the increased traffic to increase sales. . Additionally, growing consumer concern about climate change and sustainability could lead customers to limit their online purchases, as direct sales involve a lot of packaging. And while online book sales have surged since the pandemic began, McLean thinks the online channel’s book sales market share could decline in 2022 as consumers return to stores.

Another shift in buying habits that McLean says could happen this year is an increase in sales of e-books and used books if certain books become hard to find, which could also lead to increased borrowing. in the library.

There are a number of positive trends that took place in 2021 and are expected to continue in 2022, McLean said, including BookTok’s impact on boosting sales. She noted that a group of 80 authors with a large BookTok tracked and tracked by BookScan saw sales more than double in the past year, from a total of around nine million copies sold in 2020 to 20 million. in 2021. She said BookTok has been embraced by the industry, noting that its recommendations are being amplified by retailers such as Barnes & Noble, and she expects to see the platform continue to drive sales.

All books tagged by the BookTok community last year were backlist titles, and their popularity helped backlist market share in unit sales grow from 67% in 2020 to 68% in 2021. McLean noted that Backlist’s share of unit sales has steadily increased since 2004. , when it accounted for just 51% of print unit purchases. She said that while there’s nothing wrong with strong backlist sales, its growth puts pressure on the frontlist publishing business model. McLean said it’s worth watching to see if first-list sales can regain market share or if we’re now in “a new normal.”

In addition to BookTok, another trend that is expected to continue in 2022 is the popularity of manga. Manga sales soared 126% last year, and McLean said the format has moved from a niche to a mainstream category. Manga sales have benefited from the popularity of shows appearing on streaming services, with seven of the top eight selling series having a corresponding anime series airing on a major platform. McLean said manga is attracting younger and newer readers and reflects a growing interest in entertainment from Asia, which is expected to continue.

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