NPD BookScan Recaps the Year in Books 2017

With fewer juggernaut titles and categories, overall U.S. print books sales growth was slower than the previous three years 

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., January 22 2018 – Without Harry Potter and other leading franchise titles upping the ante, print book sales in the United States returned to a more standard year for the industry in 2017. Unit sales of books increased 1.9 percent in 2017, which is slightly less than annual growth rates of 3 percent posted between 2013 to 2016, according to global information company The NPD Group.

“Returning from the huge sales of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ in 2016, and the rise of adult coloring books, last year’s book sales growth was more modest than the industry has seen in recent years,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for The NPD Group. “Big blockbusters are both a blessing and a curse for the book publishing industry. In the years where they hit, they drive tremendous success for publishers; but afterwards the inevitable drop in sales back towards normal feels like a loss. It is a feast or famine phenomenon, if no blockbusters emerge to take their place the following year.” 


During the recent holiday season, which includes the eight weeks leading up to Christmas, U.S. book sales increased 2 percent on the previous year. Christmas book buyers shopped later than they did in 2016, leading to sales declines from November 26 to December 9; however, book sales surged 7 percent year-over-year in the final week before Christmas. The top five titles in 2017 totaled 4.5 million copies, compared to 8.4 million in 2016.

Adult non-fiction title unit sales increased 3 percent year over year in 2017, with continued acceleration in the self-help, political science, business, and cooking categories.  However, there were steep declines in the crafts and art category, as formerly brisk sales of adult coloring books in 2015 and 2016 subsided.

Unit sales of adult fiction titles decreased 1 percent in 2017, compared to the previous year.  While there was significant growth in the horror category, led by Stephen King’s “It” bolstered by the film’s remake last year, those gains were offset by losses in the romance and religion categories.

Children’s books continued to thrive with a 3 percent boost in 2017, led by R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder” and Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid #12: The Getaway”.  There were lifts in early childhood books, with 11 percent year-over-year growth in board books and 20 percent growth in graphic novels, tied to the success of Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man series. 

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