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2009 book sales: not that bad

December 30, 2009 |  7:49 am


Publishing has been hit hard this year: There have been bookstore closings across the country, big layoffs at publishing houses, warnings that the business model can't survive, the looming challenge of e-readers such as the Kindle and e-books. Yet with numbers out that cover book sales for 2009 through Dec. 20, it appears that despite all this bad news, people still like to buy books.

Crain's reports that Neilsen BookScan, which reports on about 75% of industry sales, suggests that sales numbers could have been much worse. The area that did the best was the important category of adult fiction -- it has held steady since last year, with 208 million books sold. Taken on their own, sales of hardcover fiction were up 3%.

Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol," the long-awaited follow-up to the mega-bestseller "The DaVinci Code," was part of the good news. The novel was the year's top seller.

Paperbacks in fiction were mixed -- trade paperback sales were up by 2%, but mass-market paperbacks, which have been struggling, were down. 

Overall, the year's tallies have book sales down about 3% overall. That's because adult nonfiction did not perform well -- sales were down by 7% since last year. 

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A Barnes & Noble display in Orem, Utah in November. Credit: George Frey / Associated Press