5 Takeaways from Nielsen BookScan
Back in January, at the Digital Book World Conference Nielsen Book president Jonathan Nowell, shared the results of the annual Nielsen BookScan. Nowell packed a ton of information into the 20-minute presentation, tracking how the print market has changed in the U.S. since ebooks rose to prominence. Although print sales have been negatively impacted, ebooks have actually boosted overall book sales. And some genres are doing better in print than they ever have before.
For those who have yet to dive into the report, or like me were blinded by the sheer number of graphs in Nowell's presentation, here are some of the most important takeaways.
1. 2009 marks the beginning of the decline of print adult fiction. One of the most telling slides displayed a graph that tracked the rise of print book sales from 2004 to 2009 in adult fiction. Over that five-year period, sales grew 20%. But after 2009 a stark plummet began. By 2014, print fiction sales had dropped 37%. Nowell credits this decline to the growing popularity of ebooks. Fiction books in particular dominate the ebook format, accounting for 65% of ebook sales in Q3 2014.
2. But fiction authors aren't hurting. Despite the loss in print sales, Nowell said that many fiction authors are seeing more book sales than ever before. To demonstrate, Nowell aggregated the sales of three anonymous, mainstay fiction authors. In the "pre-ebook" era (2008-2010), the three authors sold a total of 27 million books. Print sales did dip in the "post-ebook" era (20012-2014) to 23 million, but authors also brought in 28 million ebook sales in that same period. That's a total of 51 million book sales, an 89% increase from "pre-ebook" era sales.
3. Non-fiction saw print declines early. Adult non-fiction books felt the digital pressure earlier than fiction. The print decline began in 2007, dropping 23% over the course of seven years. Hardest hit were the travel and reference segments, which declined 50% and 37% respectively. The internet played a role in this rapid plunge with free reference and travel sites often replacing the need for print.
Still, some niche genres have grown in print sales despite the downturn. Cooking and entertaining titles have seen print sales rise by 11% since 2007. Likewise, Bibles and religious books have seen 43% growth.
4. Juvenile print sales are actually rising. Although juvenile print book sales dipped between 2008 and 2011 by 10%, they rose rapidly in the past few years. 2014 reported the highest juvenile book sales on record. Juvenile nonfiction led this growth with categories like Social Situations/Family/Health and Concepts leading the way. Since 2009 juvenile nonfiction print sales have grown by 28% and juvenile fiction by 8%.
5. For print sales to continue to thrive, a new bookstore must emerge. Nowell closed his report with a vision for the bookstore's future. He said that in order for bookstores and print books to survive, bookstores must be designed to inspire and to promote fun. They have to provide more than the simple exchange embodied by online retail, and offer experiences that keep consumers coming back for more.