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Online shopping and paperbacks see gains in 2016

Toronto, ON – Jan. 27, 2017 – Print sales fall slightly

Book buyers in Canada remained fairly evenly divided between online and physical shopping channels in 2016. According to consumer surveying conducted by industry non-profit BookNet Canada, 48% of book purchases were made through online channels, including websites, mobile apps, and download sites, while 52% were made in physical stores, which includes chain bookstores, indies, discount stores, and general retailers. This represents a small 1.8% increase for online, and a 1.7% decrease for physical stores compared to 2015, though physical still claims the majority of purchases.

When it comes to format preferences among book buyers, consumer research shows small gains for paperback in 2016 (54.2% of all book purchases versus 51.1% in 2015) and a minor decrease for ebooks (16.8% versus 19% in 2015), with hardcovers (23.9%) and audiobooks (2.6%) seeing little to no change. 

In terms of volume and value sold in 2016, the trade market for print books in Canada decreased slightly compared to last year, with a 6.4% decline in volume of units sold and a 3.6% decline in dollar value. By subject, Non-Fiction saw the greatest decline in units sold (10.4%), while Fiction decreased by 6.7% and Juvenile by 0.7%. In terms of market share, Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Juvenile accounted for 26.9%, 33.1%, and 38.0% of the print trade market in 2016, respectively, which is similar to 2015.

These percent changes are based on data reported to our sales tracking service, BNC SalesData, from a specific subset of retailers selected because they report consistently year over year and which excludes retailers that may have been added or removed from the panel in the last year. This ensures an accurate assessment of market change over time.

Taking into account the total market for all reporting retailers in 2016, which represents 85% of the print trade market in Canada, there were a total of 50.5 million units sold in 2016 at a value of $983.7 million. Using that same panel of all participating retailers, there were 52.8 million units sold in 2015 at a value of $1 billion. These numbers do not include sales for ebooks or used books.

The five top-selling books for 2016 were, in order, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, 99 by Wayne Gretzy, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid #11: Double Down by Jeff Kinney.

For more details on these trends, please visit our blog. A more detailed report on the state of the Canadian print trade market, with comprehensive sales numbers by subject, will be released later this year, titled The Canadian Book Market 2016. Details will go up at when it is released. Also coming up is our Deep Dive series of research reports combining sales and consumer data on the most popular subject categories in Canada, starting with Mystery in February 2017, as well as the 2016 edition of The State of Digital Publishing in Canadawhich looks at the evolving landscape of digital publishing programs in Canada.

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BookNet Canada is a non-profit organization that develops technology, standards, and education to serve the Canadian book industry. Founded in 2002 to address systemic challenges in the industry, BookNet Canada supports publishing companies, booksellers, wholesalers, distributors, sales agents, and libraries across the country.

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) for this project. / Nous reconnaissons l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada par l’entremise du Fonds du livre du Canada (FLC) pour ce projet.

Media Contact:
Zalina Alvi
Marketing & Communications Manager
BookNet Canada 
(416) 362-5057 x 2250