Brief - The Hustle

Books are burning — in the good way

Written by Ben Berkley | Mar 20, 2023 6:49:58 AM

How’s this for a plot twist? The once-disappearing bookstore business is showing signs of a comeback.

Book sales rebounded in a big way post-pandemic, with US publishers reeling in $29.3B in 2021. Though early 2022 data suggests a slight dip, bookstores remain in expansion mode.

Barnes & Noble is actually opening stores

Throughout the 2010s, most stories about the chain included the word “embattled” as Amazon picked off business. Now, B&N expects to open ~30 new stores this year, per NPR.

Credit hedge fund owner Elliott Management Corp., also behind top UK bookseller Waterstones, which bought a debt-laden B&N in 2019.

  • Refocusing away from trinket sales, they gave local stores more autonomy over displays and welcomed influencers.
  • Sales grew 4%+ last year.

Inner You’ve Got Mail fan worried about a Fox Books situation? Breathe easy — the number of independent bookstores is also on the rise. Last year, 334 indie stores opened in the US.

Women are driving this change

Book sales didn’t increase in a vacuum — releases from in-demand writers flooded the market. Of the 25 bestselling books of 2022, male authors occupied just 10 spots.

  • Colleen Hoover nearly took as many slots on her own, selling 14.3m books last year.
  • Powered by TikTok, she even outsold the Bible, per The New York Times.

Some reports estimate women are buying 80% of novels today. The market is aligning in this direction — in the 1970s, female authors accounted for ~20% of all books; in 2020, their share surpassed 50%.