Print Book Sales Could Grow by 2% This Year—Or by 8% (

Few people in the industry have been willing to venture a prediction on how the book business will finish 2021, but in a July 21 presentation on industry print unit sales through the first half of the year, NPD BookScan analyst Kristen McLean laid out three possible scenarios. All outcomes assume that the rapid gains in print unit sales the industry has posted so far this year will slow in the last six months of 2021.

Indeed, McLean noted that, since the end of what she called an historic first quarter, the year-to-date growth rate has lost about one point per week; in other words, growth was up 29% at the close of the first quarter and ahead 18% at the end of the second quarter. At present, she said, sales appear to be steadily gliding back to a more normal performance.

If that is the case and sales run even with 2020 for the balance of the year, print unit sales will finish 2021 with an 8% gain over last year. If sales return closer to 2019 levels—which means a decline in sales in the last months of the year compared to 2020—sales would still finish the year ahead up 2% over 2020.
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