Publishing Industry Market Update; Vol. 4, Issue 1

2022 is behind us. And while it was a down year for the industry as a whole, there are reasons for hope. But a little less hope if you work at Amazon.

Final (preliminary) Numbers

With 2022 in the books (I'm sure we’ve used that one before), sales of print books finished 6.5% behind 2021. The decline was anticipated, as the world returned to a sense of normalcy, and with it more opportunities for entertainment besides reading.  But, on the bright side of the street, 2022 was still 11.8% over pre-pandemic 2019.  Again, for those avid readers of the Update, you’ll recall that we were pleased as punch about 2019 while it was happening.  

Our analyst colleagues at BookScan note that a couple of symptoms from the pandemic carried on into 2022.  First, with fewer brick-and-mortar stores, it was harder for new books to get their footing, so frontlist sales continued to slip (down 10.5% from 2021). Then, with that pesky inflation still lurking in every corner of commerce, hardcover books took a hit. Hardcover sales dropped 10.4%, while trade paper held steadier – down only 2.4%. But, if it’s a choice between a dozen eggs and a paperback, instead of 7 eggs and a fancy hardcover – well, the choice is made for you…cuz they frown on it when you leave five eggs rolling around on the grocery store shelf.

Retail Reset? 

As previously noted in prior issues of the Update, Amazon—irrefutably a beneficiary of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions—is paying the piper a bit. At least, their employees are. The online selling giant announced that it will lay off more than 18,000 employees in the coming months. With over 1.5 million employees, that “right-sizing” might seem nominal…until it’s your name on the pink slip.

But over in the “good news” department, CEO James Daunt announced that our old friend, Barnes & Noble, plans to add 30 new stores in 2023. Two of those new stores are in Boston-area locations that previously housed “Amazon Books” stores. The B&N growth comes as the chain finds itself with 125 fewer stores than at its height in 2009. Daunt credits his redesign plan, and all the work they were able to fast-track while the stores were closed.

More Rebounding

Yes, we do have basketball on the brain here at the Update—particularly college basketball.  But, while we’re talking about schools, the good people at Scholastic are up off the bench and back in the action.  Their book fair revenue was up 37% in 2022, reaching levels equal to 85% of pre-pandemic numbers.   

SPARE Change

Without editorializing at all—which you must understand is very difficult for the Update—booksellers are cheers-ing the launch of a recently published memoir that is causing the most retail excitement we’ve seen since Michelle Obama’s memoir. The Man Who Wouldn't Be King chalked up over 1.4 million copies sold worldwide on the first day of release.  

A rising tide…?

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