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Volume sales of printed books in the US increased by 8.2% in 2020 over 2019, according to stats body NPD BookScan.  Unit sales for 2020 came in at 751m, compared to 694m in 2019, the biggest increase over a prior year since 2005.

The figures reflect a similar trend in the UK where, as Nasher has reported, there were 202m printed books sold in 2020, the first time sales of printed books have topped 200m since 2007.

Both the US and UK figures underline the importance of physical books to people during the pandemic as consumers on both sides of the Atlantic sought distraction, entertainment and solace.

In the US the 751m figure is still some way short of 2008’s record year when 781m printed books were sold.  However, it is still the third highest annual figure for sales of printed books recorded between 2004 and 2020.

NPD Books Executive Director of Business Development Kristen McLean said:  “The US consumer book market looks very different today, than it did back in April.  Sales growth came in waves, from the sudden need to educate kids at home, to the super-heated political cycle. All of the additional time people spent at home created a big appetite for reading, including huge spikes in sales of cookbooks and do-it-yourself books, which helped people stay entertained and engaged.”

McLean describes 2020 as “one of the most remarkable years I can remember in my 25 years in the US book market”.  She continued: “ I still have a very visceral sense of the uncertainty we were all feeling on 15 March, and I can safely say that although we were cautiously optimistic about the book market’s resilience, no one imagined we would have the kind of market performance we saw in 2020.  We have to go all the way back to 2005 to find bigger gains.  That was the year Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince sold 7 million units between August and December, and the Kindle and iPhone were still two years in the future.”