Print book sales fell in 2012 – but no faster than they did in 2011, says Nielsen

A Nielsen BookScan survey reveals that in 2012 unit sales of paper books dropped more than 9 percent, more or less the same amount that they declined in 2011 and 2010.

Ed Andrieski/AP
Shopper Bryce Hoogland browses inside the bookstore Tattered Cover in Denver, Colo.

Unit sales of traditional paper books declined last year by about the same amount that they did in 2011 and 2010, according to data gathered by Nielsen BookScan.

Unit sales fell over 9 percent in 2012 and nonfiction titles took the hardest hit, with units falling 13 percent. Adult fiction also decreased, falling 10.7 percent, but the drop was less than it experienced in 2011, when it dropped by 17.7 percent. (As pointed out by Publishers Weekly, perhaps a product of the "Fifty Shades" phenomenon?)

In contrast, children’s, or “juvenile,” nonfiction increased by 5.4 percent for the year. Children’s fiction decreased by a little more than 2 percent.

While the drop in unit sales of print books obviously leveled off for 2012, the fact remains that print sales still dropped in a world that’s figuring out how e-books and print books will co-exist – assuming that they can. (Though, as cited out by Wall Street Journal writer Nicholas Carr, only 30 percent of adults said they’d read an e-book within the past year.) Only time will tell exactly what roles print and e-books will play in the lives of readers.

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