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book sales 2020

The joy of reading books rediscovered during the pandemic

With people stuck at home and many outdoor activities shut down, the joy of reading books seems to have been rediscovered during the pandemic. UK consumer book sales climbed 7% in 2020, while in the U.S. printed books recorded a 8.2% gain, the largest annual increase since 2010.

Despite bookshop lockdowns due to COVID, the consumer market in the U.K. performed particularly well last year. Consumer book sales climbed 7% to £2.1bn, with sales of fiction up 16% and non-fiction up 4%, according to data published by the British Publishers’ Association. Print accounted for £1.7bn of those sales, up 4% from 2019, while digital sales were up 24% at £418m.

According to the association, total UK publishing sales – including consumer, educational and academic titles – rose 2% to £6.4bn. Figures also show audiobook sales also ramped up last year, increasing by 37% to £133 million.

Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the Publishers’ Association, said: “It’s clear that many people rediscovered their love of reading last year and that publishers were able to deliver the entertaining and thought-provoking books that so many of us needed. But we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it’s been a particularly challenging year for education publishers and many smaller publishers.”


Bestsellers in the U.K. included ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo, ‘7 Ways by Jamie Oliver’, ‘The Mirror and the Light’ by Hilary Mantel and Barack Obama’s memoir ‘A Promised Land’, published in November.


In the U.S., 2020 turned out much better than many in the trade side of publishing expected in the early spring, when pandemic-induced store lockdowns and some supply chain issues caused deep concern.

Statista’s data showed that printed book sales amounted to 750.89 million units in 2020, marking growth of 8.2%, the highest year-on-year increase since 2010.

According to Publishers Weekly, adult fiction sales rose 6%. The three top-selling titles were: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (more than 1.1 million copies sold); The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (more than 834,000 copies); and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere (nearly 597,000 copies).

The hottest subcategory was graphic novels, where sales grew 29%, while the action/adventure subcategory had the toughest year, with units down 14.9%.


Looking for a good read? Moonshot News recommends ‘Glass Half-Broken’.

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