Nielsen’s 2021 BookScan report brings an encouraging sigh of relief and renewed hope for publishers as book sales soared across the UK and other parts of the world. UK bookshops re-opened in April 2021 (with books sales jumping a third in the first week of re-opening) and with it, brought the highest year of book sales in over a decade. 212m print books were sold, an increase of 5% from 2020, and sales were worth £1.82bn. UK booksellers reported a very fruitful 2021 Christmas period with some retailers up by as much as 50%, according to The Bookseller’s survey, and one retailer’s sales tripling that of December 2020. Book sales didn’t just take off in the UK, the United States reached over 825.7 million units, up 9% from 2020. As in the UK, fiction sales soared in the US with young adult fiction increasing by 30.7%.
So, what books were thriving? UK fiction sales were up 20% from 2019 which reflects an ongoing desire for escapist reading, through genres such as crime and thriller (19% increases from 2019), romance (49% increase) and science fiction (23% increase). Richard Osman’s debut crime thriller The Thursday Murder Club remained the UK number one bestseller in 2021, spending 45 weeks at the top of fiction bestseller lists and selling over one millions copies since it was published in September 2020.
Canada’s 2021 bestseller, Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, tells the story of five survivors of the Canadian Indian residential school system, and Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us was ranked US’ number one bestseller for 2021 according to The New York Times. It Ends With Us follows the story of a woman raised in a violent home, attempting to escape the cycle of abuse. It Ends With Us went viral on BookTok, with #itendswithus receiving 73 million views, epitomizing the significant impact of BookTok on book sales, especially for teenagers.
So with the boom of print sales, rise of escapist genres and the #booktok craze generating huge sales, it looks like reading isn’t just a lockdown hobby but is here to stay, much to the relief of booksellers, authors and publishers alike.