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Arts & Culture

The Book Industry Narrative For 2015? It’s Complicated

Of the 88 years that New York City’s iconic independent bookseller Strand Bookstore has been open, 2015 was its highest year ever for revenue. The bookstore’s aisles have been crowded over the past 12 months and they are packed to capacity this week, the peak of the holiday season.

“We haven’t been able to keep some of the books in stock,” Whitney Hu, marketing director at Strand, told International Business Times. “It’s been a crazy year. Our employees on the floor have been in overdrive.”

With CD and DVD sales in a state of secular decline, printed books are emerging as one of the last remaining physical media. This is especially noticeable around the holidays, as procrastinators around the country scramble for last-minute gifts. But while the holiday season normally gives bookstores a significant sales boost, retail sales data for printed books shows that the story for the book industry as a whole is a bit more complicated.

Sales of printed books are down slightly over the past year, continuing a trend of steady decline seen over the past five years, multiple data sets show. Sales of e-books remain unchanged, or continue to rise, depending on whom you ask.

Total publishers’ book sales, which include both print and digital e-books, remain mostly unchanged, according to data from the  Association of American Publishers (AAP), which analyzes book sales data from 1,200 publishers in the United States. Americans read slightly fewer books in 2015 than they did in 2014, according to a Pew Research Study of about 1,000 people. The number of people who read printed books is down about 5 percent, while consumption of e-books remained unchanged.

Does that mean it’s s all doom and gloom for printed books? Not exactly.

“It’s a mixed bag for print in 2015,” said AAP spokeswoman Marisa Bluestone. Indeed, sales of paperback books grew 12 percent from January to August, compared to the same time period last year, according to AAP data. Meanwhile, the American Booksellers Association saw an increase in the number of member store locations, according to the organization’s media director. There were 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,660 locations five years ago.

[Read the full story on IBTimes]

Image by Ryan ThompsonCC Flickr

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