Back in the depths of the recession, I theorized that fantasy (read: escapism), YA/children's (read: people will continue to spend money on their kids, even if they don't spend money on themselves), and romance (read: happy endings) would continue to do well, and based on my own research, that seems to have been the case. What I find interesting, however, is that book sales are down year-on-year across the board (with the possible exception of Amazon, who insists on reporting "media sales" without explaining how those data break down among books, movies, music, &c).
There are a lot of theories as to why this is the case, and a correspondingly large number of questions that need to be answered before any of those theories can be backed up (I hesitate to say "confirmed"), altered, or discarded. Among my questions: while dollars are down, are units necessarily also down? (If fewer hardcovers are being sold, it's possible that overall sales dollars can decrease while the number of units sold can stay the same or increase.) Are e-books being taken into account? (I have a feeling they aren't.) Are all retailers being taken into account? (Chains like Wal-Mart and Sam's Club don't report to sales aggregators like Nielsen BookScan.) And so on.
What are your theories, gentle readers? I'm not necessarily calling for hard data, but I'm curious to know what you think is going on. My hunches are as follows:
· A lot of these sales figures are based on reports by BookScan, which (as mentioned above) does not capture the entire market. (Estimates currently range from 70 to 75%.)
· Dollar figures from 10-K reports for individual businesses are helpful, but don't generally (as far as I know) break down sales by product; Amazon (and, to a lesser extent, Borders and Barnes & Noble) sells a huge number of non-book products. To anyone with greater knowledge in this area: definitely post a comment.
· Units and dollars are probably both down, but I think these reports are only for physical books; e-book sales are up year-on-year, and are almost certainly going to continue this upward trend over the next several years. This is why the debate over e-book pricing (and, by extension, e-book profit margin) is so heated.
To the comments!