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NPD: Publisher eBook Unit Sales Rose in April 2020

Earlier this week NPD confirmed what the AAP had lead us to expect (and many had assumed would happen): publisher ebook sales rose in the US in April compared to March 2020 and to April 2019.

NPD is reporting the ebook unit sales, while AAP reported revenue, but both agree that sales were up for the month of April while still being down for the year. (Just imagine what the sales reports would have been like if those self-same publishers hadn’t systematically suppressed their ebook sales for the past 12 years.)

Year-over-year e-book sales in the United States declined by 5 percent, with 55 million units sold through April 2020. However, unit sales in April 2020—the first full month of COVID quarantine—rose by nearly one-third (31 percent) compared to March 2020. All major categories experienced e-book growth in April 2020, compared to previous month, with adult fiction posting the largest unit gain of 1.8 million units, according to The NPD Group (

Traditionally published e-book sales volume, tracked by NPD PubTrack Digital, declined 6 percent in the first half of the year. However, looking only at the month of April— the first full month of COVID-19 lockdowns in the U.S.—e-books were up 31 percent compared to March, selling 4.2 million more units.

This data obviously does not represent the entire market, but it probably does reflect general market trends. I would not have said that last year, or any previous years, but in 2020 larger market trends caused by the pandemic  are overcoming publishers' own self-destructive decisions.

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MM August 4, 2020 um 9:49 pm

I noticed this too — and it’s continued on.

I’m a small ebook publisher, and our sales went up in April…and then again in May. And again in June. And again in July. Our sales over the same time period last year were flat. There’s nothing else to account for it, except everyone’s stuck at home and either A) wanting to read more? B) not caring about being "seen" with a cardboard-and-paper book?

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