Booksellers are enjoying something of a renaissance this year.
According to the Coalition of Independent Booksellers in the U.S., one of the largest industry bodies representing independent booksellers, U.S. book sales in the first half of 2018 were up 4.5 percent, the highest growth figure since 2015. In October alone, their memberstores saw about a 5 percent increase in sales of physical books.
“Sales have certainly been good. People are more interested in reading,” said Sara Baume, a fourth-generation bookstore owner in the small village of Crofton, Md. located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, who has been in the industry for 38 years. Baume has seen sales growth across genres, including nonfiction, science, fiction, and children’s books.
So far, her business has not yet seen a dip in profit, but she does fear that the upcoming Christmas sales will be sluggish. “If the momentum continues, then we can hold our own,” Baume said.
Washington-area independent bookstore owners also report overall business as being strong, although some have lowered their expectations.
“Everything is bigger, everything is bigger,” said Mary Jo Hudak, the founder of Seattle-based bookshop A Book A Day, who, like Baume, attributes increased sales to a robust demand for fiction. “The e-book is not making life easy for us as readers.”
Meanwhile, independent bookstores in Germany are enjoying a boom in sales after the passage of a new “books tax” in March. The new system is designed to fund programs that benefit the public —such as education and refugee aid — and has raised the tax rate on digital books from 19 percent to 21 percent.
Mass German book sales are also up this year, as the book, bookseller, and magazine industry benefited from events on World Book Night, and widespread public interest in Netflix series like The Night Manager and Narcos. In Germany, books can be bought tax-free from independent bookstores for a flat fee of about €2 per book per month. “Public feeling has been positive [in the run-up to] the 2016 World Book Night,” wrote Nicola Six, the co-owner of Gruenlager, an independently owned bookstore in Hamburg. “This is very good news for bookselling.”
Overall, more than 45 million new books were published in Germany last year, despite a drastic drop in overall print book sales.