E-Book Sales Rise as People Hunt Desperately for Stuff to Do

Illustration for article titled E-Book Sales Rise as People Hunt Desperately for Stuff to Do
Photo: Stephen Brashear / Stringer (Getty Images)

E-book revenues are up by 15.2% from 2019, hitting $1 billion last year, according to a report by the Association of American Publishers. December figures should reach at least $100 million if the organization’s estimates are correct.

“Print book sales tracked for the year by NPD BookScan rose 8.2 percent in 2020 despite—and in some ways because of—the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote trade book analyst Porter Anderson.

Total book sales saw a bump as well with adult books rising 35.4% year-over-year thanks to A Promised Land by former President Barack Obama and political books like Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough.


The seemingly slow rise of e-books is still surprising given lockdown and the ease of downloading new titles. Total revenues across all categories—from young adult titles to university presses offerings—rose 24.5% compared to November 2019. Total book revenue was $1.2 billion. Ebooks made up 9.3% of total book sales last November.

Stats through January 2, 2021, US print sales only
Stats through January 2, 2021, US print sales only
Screenshot: The NPD Group / NPD BookScan

“After a jarring drop-off at the beginning of the pandemic, the US print book market has shown remarkable resilience throughout 2020, posting impressive gains, even as alternate formats like ebooks and audiobooks have also grown,” said Kristen McLean of the NPD Group, a market research firm.

John Biggs is a writer from Ohio who lives in Brooklyn. He likes books, watches, and his dog. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo. Signal: +16468270591 Telegram: @johnbiggs

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Arcanum Five

Wow. I guess I’m surprised that ebooks aren’t a much, much bigger share of the market. I guess a lot of folks are like me and still love the tactile experience and/or don’t entirely trust digital rights holders.