Publishing Industry Market Update; Vol. 2, Issue 8

More Reading = More Book Sales

A U.S. Department of Labor survey among Americans aged 15 years and older showed that reading time increased 21% during the second half of 2020. Turns out people were actually reading all those books they bought during the heart of the pandemic. Reading time increased from 28 minutes a day during July through December 2019 to 34 minutes a day for the same period last year. The biggest age-group increases came in the 20-34 and over-65 age brackets. The over-75 crowd won the event . . . which they do every year – clocking in a whopping 95 minutes per day (can you say “retirement,” anyone?).

The biggest surprise came from men, who ratcheted up their reading time by 30%!  I wonder if that will stick.

Here We Go Again

We spent the first year of this blog telling you how pleasantly surprised we were to see the 2020 sales reports come in, month after month, ahead of what we all felt was a really decent 2019. Well, here we go again. The first half of 2021 is not only keeping pace with its one-year older (or is it younger?) sibling, it’s beating up on him. After 2020 outpaced 2019 by 8.2%, the first half of 2021 has jumped up 18.5% over the same period last year. Backlist (a Y&Y favorite) led the way with a 21.4% leap, while frontlist posted a more-than-respectable 12.4% increase. Consistent with what we’ve been reporting all year, adult fiction had a meteoric jump, up 30.7% over a year ago.
Warning: That 18.5% increase was comprised of a 29% first-quarter jump, followed by a considerably more modest 8% bump in Q2. Remember that trend we’ve been pointing out to you for the last couple of months?

Told Ya

We began the cautionary tales back in May. Well, beware the Ides of Summer (sorry, Mr. Shakespeare). The weekly numbers from July finally splashed down. Here are the week-by-week figures (as always, versus the prior year):

July 4:     up 4% (Thanks again to our pal, Fiction)

July 11:     down 1.3% (Fiction’s 22.1% jump couldn’t stave off the adult non-fiction freefall)

July 18:    down 3.9% (+16.5% in fiction was overwhelmed by adult non-fiction’s 9.1% drop)

July 25:    down 4.9% (the albatross, aka, adult non-fiction fell 12.6% to pull everyone down)

Well, it was fun while it lasted. With trends turning downward this early in the quarter, Q3 isn’t looking good.

Amazon Crashes Back to Earth (too soon, Mr. Bezos?)

While Jeff did his best Buzz Lightyear impression, back home on earth Amazon saw its engines stall—which for Amazon meant that Q2 2021 revenues ONLY increased 27%. After MASSIVE jumps in revenue and profits during the pandemic (e.g., a 49% increase in online revenue in the pandemic heights of Q2 2020), Amazon finds its online sales growth coming back down to pre-pandemic norms of 20% or so. So, while Wall Street isn’t pleased, Jeff probably isn’t about to start trimming his rocket fuel budget anytime soon.

Does Anyone Know How to Drive a Truck?

How about off-loading shipping containers from a freighter? If you’ve ever wanted to do either, now is the time to learn. The publishing industry supply chain (like many other industries) continues to suffer unprecedented lags—primarily due to the shortage of skilled labor in the shipping sector. The trucking industry finds itself short 60,000 drivers! And that’s if we can even get the ports unclogged to give them something to deliver. Plus, with more and more raw pulp going toward Jeff’s insatiable appetite for cardboard boxes, the supply chain for raw materials is in dire straits.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s a Bookstore!

What we hope and pray is a portent of things to come, the bookstore has started to shake off hibernation (terribly mixed metaphor, I know). Of course, May of last year saw nearly all bookstores closed. To quote an old friend, “you can’t fall off the floor.” But the brick-and-mortar segment seems to be doing a lot better than that. May 2021 bookstore sales obliterated May 2020 by 130%. So, the report of the bookstores’ death has been greatly exaggerated (you gotta love these literary references in a publishing industry blog, amiright?!).

It’s great to have you back, bookstores!


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