For the year ended January 2, 2021, unit book sales hit 750.9 million, up from 693.7 million a year ago, according to NPD BookScan. All major categories posted increases, with unit sales of print books up 8.2% in 2020 over 2019 at reporting outlets.

“It’s going to be a little while before we see the final numbers from the holiday season, but initial reports suggest that publishers finished the year pretty much how they carried all of 2020—with strong sales,” says Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer.

“For the end of the year, I think we will see numbers up about 8% for 2020—which is just astounding.

In addition, Overdrive has announced library e-book climbed a record 33% in 2020.

“For years, publishers have been suggesting that library e-books might depress retail sales. Well, overlay the record number of digital lends this year with the incredible surge in retail sales and I don’t know how you square record digital lends with a record retail sales year,” Albanese tells CCC.

“Certainly, I think [these figures] could force some publishers to rethink their approach” to library e-book lending.

Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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