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200 Million Printed Books Sold In The UK Despite Pandemic

Over 200 million printed books were sold in the UK last year despite the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an impressive figure, and even more notable for being the highest volume of UK book sales in well over a decade. It would seem that the popularity of printed materials, as opposed to online-only publications, may not only be persisting, but even increasing. This could be an encouraging sign to companies and individuals looking to invest in custom booklet printing to promote their writing, products or services. If you’re a business or an independent author opting to self-publish, it’s well worth considering investing in affordable book and booklet printing.

The Bookseller magazine recently reported that official book sales in the UK increased by 5.2 per cent in 2020. The total book sales amounted to 202 million volumes, worth around £1.76 billion. This figure represents the largest rise in book sales since 2007, while the annual value was the highest since its last significant peak in 2009.

It’s interesting that physical books continued to sell in huge numbers despite the pandemic; not least because booksellers faced shutdowns for long periods last year, with the two national lockdowns from 23 March to 15 June and from 5 November to 2 December. However, the lack of open bookshops apparently failed to stop printed book retailers from thriving in the industry.

Sales director Vicky Ellis said that 2020 was a year like no other, a year of extremes, in fact. She said that the first lockdown saw a significant decline in sales; but once non-essential retailers reopened, sales skyrocketed. Ellis especially singled out an additional “Super Thursday”,  which took place on 1 September 2020.

While the arrival of books at local bookstores saw delays during the pandemic, there was a huge increase in sales as soon as the shops opened.

Despite stringent social distancing rules, readers were quick to return to their favourite bookshops, and the first week of June saw sales of 3.8 million books. This totalled  £33 million, a 31 per cent increase in sales in the same week of 2019. Print book sales rose by 9 per cent in volume and 11 per cent in value in the eight weeks following reopening after the first lockdown.

According to The Bookseller, the best-selling title of 2020 was The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy. Closely following in terms of volumes of sales were Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club, and Pinch of Nom – Everyday Light.

Ellis stated she was not surprised that demand continued throughout the remainder of 2020 and the pandemic as a whole. She also noted that demand had remained strong during the second lockdown and ensuing restrictions. Her conclusion was that people had grown tired of watching so many Netflix series and had been in search of something else to fill their time.

Ellis also conjectured that books offer people a diversion away from spending too much time on their phones or in front of computers – devices that most people use on a daily basis for work and other purposes. Physical books can also be a home accessory capable of being put on display, unlike e-books.

Other industry commentators claim that the increase in sales of physical books could also have been prompted by a greater yearning for educational content. The home learning market, either for children whose schools have been closed or for adults aiming to benefit from lifelong learning, is continuously growing. People want to learn for themselves or to escape to another world, even for a brief moment in time. A physical book, though often viewed as outdated these days, can do something for readers that an electronic version cannot.

Businesses too can capitalise on this trend. Custom booklet printing gives their customers something more tactile and less ephemeral than an advert, a website or online pdf. In short, printed booklets can help a brand get noticed and make a company stand out from its competitors.

2020 Super Thursday

Back in the world of publishing, publishers were unable to release their offerings during the April 2020 lockdown, so they had to postpone new releases until the following season. In previous years, the weeks that lead up to the autumn have been viewed as the busiest months for new releases as people stock up on books as presents for Christmas and to entertain themselves during the forthcoming holiday season.

Since 2008, there has traditionally been a Super Thursday in October, on which a host of new titles are released onto the market. But this year, because of delays in release dates during the lockdown and the inability to hold face-to-face conferences, festivals and literary events in spring and summer, there was a huge backlog of titles waiting to appear on the shelves.

The industry, therefore, decided to have a whole series of Super Thursdays, with the first, on 3 September 2020, when almost 600 books were released on a single day.

However, while readers rejoiced in the wealth of new material available to them, book publishers and authors were less enthusiastic. Greater numbers of new releases equate to greater competition. It was even harder to attract attention, especially for first-time published authors, whether for sales or for reviews by major publications. The pandemic left little unaltered in the publishing world last year.

Book Sales in the USA

Increases in book sales were also mirrored in the US. In 2020, sales increased by 8.2 per cent to reach a massive 751 million books purchased. Similar to the UK, many people who were avoiding Covid were stuck at home and took to reading books as one of their key sources of entertainment, comfort, and escape.

Book analyst Kristen McLean said that the consumer book market in the US had changed dramatically since April 2020. Growth in sales came in waves, whether driven by increased interest in analysis of the political scene in the context of the presidential election or in purchasing texts to teach children at home during school closures. Others looked for new interests or to improve existing skills during lockdowns by purchasing cookbooks and DIY books, for example.

One huge area of growth during 2020 was the juvenile fiction category. Sales of print books classified in this niche contributed a third of the growth across the entire US book market. The percentage of juvenile fiction books sold increased by 11 per cent, totalling 18 million volumes more in 2020 than across 2019. Adult non-fiction printed book sales also increased by 4.8 per cent, selling 14 million more books in the same period.

Print Books On Demand

Whether you’re a business looking to advertise, an aspiring author or a seasoned writer, a good publishing partner is essential to help realise your ambitions. With the increased interest in physical books and other printed material, self-publishing could prove a valuable tool in your arsenal as you seek to reach new audiences.

When you want to transform your ideas into print, Ex Why Zed can help you. Our services range from pamphlet, magazine, and booklet printing to artists’ catalogues and self-published children’s books, novels and non-fiction. We ensure that every aspect looks professional, from the quality of our printing to our binding, and all at the most competitive prices.

Why not see for yourself by asking us for paper samples? We’re also delighted to offer advice and support for any printing project. Call us on 01206 766647 or email us at hello@exwhyzed.co.uk, and we’ll be glad to help you out.

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