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There is some heartening news for the UK book industry: according to Nielsen BookScan sales of printed books in 2020 were 5.2% up on the previous year, the highest they have been since 2007. Nielsen estimates that despite the lock down and the ravages of the pandemic – or perhaps because of it and the need for entertainment and distraction – there were 202m printed books sold in 2020, the first time sales of printed books have topped 200m since 2007.
The stats body also estimates that value in 2020 increased on 2019, up 5.5% to £1.76bn, the highest annual value since 2009. Nielsen says that 2020 was the sixth consecutive year of value growth for print, and the third in terms of volume. In 2019 BookScan recorded the print market up by 2.4% in value and 0.4% in volume.
Of course, this good news may be tempered when the issue of where these books were purchased is addressed, with Amazon presumed to have taken the lion’s share. But it seems that indies have sold more online than ever before too, and they have been helped by Bookshop.org which gives them a web platform that they did not have before.
Charlie Mackesy’s inspirational The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, published by Penguin Random House imprint Ebury in the UK, was the bestselling title of 2020.
Commenting on the figures, Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said: “It’s heartening to see that print sales increased last year, despite the significant challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Books are a vital source of entertainment, comfort and education and these things have been particularly necessary recently. The rise in print sales is also testament to the brilliant books that publishers have released in the past year. It is this expertise and creativity that will ensure the industry’s ongoing success in these difficult times.”