Book Publishing by the Numbers III Bookstores

R. R. Bowker  announced its annual  market share analysis  of outlets for trade book sales. Here is the break down by percentages.

Outlet                          2009                2010

Barnes and Noble       22.5%              23%

Amazon.com               12.5%              15.1%

Borders                           14%                 13.1%

Wal-Mart                        7.0%                5.8%   

Warehouse Clubs        3.6%                4.0%

Independents              3.4%                3.5%

Books-a-Million          2.8%                2.7%

Target                             2.0%                1.9%

Supermarkets              2.0%                1.7%

Other                                                      29.2%

There are some interesting and surprising numbers here.  First of all there are quite a few venues that presumably  aren’t broken out. These include but are not limited to: airport stores, libraries, school stores, book fairs, gift stores, other Internet outlets, Christian book stores, book clubs, mail order outlets, special and premium sales and of course self-published titles. That ‘s a lot. I’m sorry they didn’t break these down. It would leave me to question some of these statistics.

Before you ask, I will tell you that these numbers don’t include e-books, which in 2010  became a significant component of  trade book sales.  Some publishers have reported that e-book unit sales in 2010 account for about 10% of their total trade sales.

The most surprising number above is that Barnes and Noble (retail and on-line) continues to be the largest outlet for trade sales in America, far surpassing Amazon.com. On the other hand, these figures indicate that most of the growth in retail is coming from Amazon. I would imagine that given Amazon’s dominance in e-book sales, if e-books had been included, Amazon would show a larger percentage of market share. Of course, Amazon has chosen not to break out their e-book sales. They don’t even break out their book sales. It is treated as part of  sales for their media division. Another reason to question the robustness of these statistics.

The other surprising statistic that should be alarming to all book lovers is that the market share of independent stores is only 3.5%. It’s nice to see that  their share is increasing though. If you ask anyone in publishing, they will tell you that independent stores continue to be the heart and soul of bookselling. But sadly, their role has declined to a small niche. Books that might otherwise have been invisible to book buyers found their audience through the passionate advocacy of independent booksellers. I  would ask: who is replacing them?  Who is providing the passion in this business? I think I know the answer to that question.  And I think that answer is pretty sad.

Borders Books declined slightly. This statistic also leads me to question the robustness of this analysis. Borders is the sick man of the book business. They have been pushed into bankruptcy this year and have already closed several hundred stores. There is a big question whether they will ever emerge from bankruptcy. Publishers seem unwilling to extend credit to them. There is a good chance that they won’t show up on next year’s list at all.

For awhile, Wal-mart was the fastest growing segment of the retail book business. There were a lot of people saying that they expected Wal-mart to be selling 25% of all books in the near future. This didn’t come to pass. Wal-mart’s market share declined substantially, more than any other market segment, more even than Borders.

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2 Responses to “Book Publishing by the Numbers III Bookstores”

  1. Katie Mahon Says:

    Enlighten us, Andy!
    If the wonderful indie bookstores are not providing passionate, objective, thoughtful recommmendations beyond 3.5% of the market, who is telling us what to read? I have a suspicion too, and think it is sad, but I defer to someone who knows a hell of a lot more about it.
    Thanks for your continued industry commentary and highlights.
    Katie Mahon
    (co-author, The Miracle Chase)

  2. andyrossagency Says:

    Thanks, Katie and I hope your book is doing well and getting support from those few independent booksellers. These industry statistics are not all that robust, so don’t have too much confidence in those statistics. I suppose that is as much hope as I can offer at the moment.

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