Sales are up almost 9% for printed books, but who reads them?

Top line

U.S. publishers sold 825.7 million printed books in 2021, up 8.9% from the previous year, but Pew The data shows that the share of Americans who read print books has remained stable over this period, with readers increasingly purchasing e-books and audiobooks.


Sales of printed books in the United States increased by 67.8 million in 2021, with sales of adult fiction increasing 25.5% and sales of adult non-fiction by 4.4%, data shows collected by the market research company NPD and reported through Editors Weekly.

However, the proportion of American adults reading printed books has remained static at 65%, as has the proportion of books in any format at 75%, according to a Pew study released Thursday.

The typical American adult, or median, read five books in 2021, a number that has stuck roughly consistent since Pew started tracking reading habits in 2011.

On the flip side, Pew found that 30% of American adults read at least one eBook in 2021, up 5 percentage points from the previous year.

Some print bestsellers owe their success to digital influences – 30.7% print sales gains in young adult fiction category driven by activity on BookTok, a TikTok user community who publish on books, Editors Weekly reported.

Key context

When physical bookstores were closed in 2020 by coronavirus closures, e-book sales by major U.S. publishers jumped 22%, according to The data from the NDP. However, as restrictions were lifted and buyers returned to bookstores, e-book sales returned to more moderate levels. In June 2021, e-book sales were down 8% from 2020, but were still 8% higher than in June 2019. It is possible that e-book sales increased due to chain disruptions supply during the 2021 holiday season, said NDP analyst Kristen McLean. However, data for the second half of 2021 has yet to be released.


Pew found that women read more than men, young people read more than older people, more educated people read more than people with less education, members of high-income households read more than members of low-income households. income and city dwellers read more than people living in the suburbs or suburbs. rural residents. In 2021, audiobook listening among adults with a household income of less than $ 30,000 increased 8 percentage points to 22%. Book reading among city dwellers increased 6 percentage points to 81%.

Surprising fact

JD Salinger’s works have not been published as e-books until 2019. The author, who died in 2010, was very involved in the presentation of his works, prohibiting illustrations of characters on most book covers to avoid skewing readers towards a particular interpretation of his writing. With the exception of two records from the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled The catcher in the rye, none of Salinger’s major works are officially available as audiobooks.

Further reading

“Three in ten Americans now read e-books” (Bench)

“Printed books had a huge sales year in 2021” (Weekly editors)

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