Over the past few decades there has been a lot of speculation over the demise of the bookstores. As big bookstore chains fall under the weight of online retailers, e-books, and Amazon, how could small independent bookstores hope to survive?
While things aren’t great for bookstores they also aren’t quite as bad as they seem. Despite dire predictions, Americans still read quite a lot of books, shelling out billions of dollars for them every single year.
Number of bookstores
An interesting fact to note is that although from 2012 to 2017 the number of bookstores have declined by 12%, the American Booksellers Association reports that memberships in bookstores have increased by 13% in the same time.
- According to the US Census as of 2020 there were around 10,800 bookstores in all, ranging from small, independent retailers to major chains within the US.
- Since 2012 the number of bookstores in the US has been decreasing from 16,819 stores to 10,800 as of 2020.
- Between the years 2019 and 2021 there were 2,023 independent book companies running 2,506 stores.
- Lisbon is the city with the most bookstores per capita with 35.97 bookstores per 100,000 people.
- Shanghai takes the lead with the most bookstores in a city housing 3,800 bookstores.
Displayed in the chart below is the number of bookstores in the US from 2012 to 2020:
Displayed in the chart below are the top 5 cities with the most bookstores per capita:
Displayed below is the top 10 cities with the most bookstores:
Big-box book retailers like Borders and Barnes & Noble may have once driven small, independent booksellers out of business, but today in the shadow of e-books and online retailers, even bookstore chains are suffering.
- In the United States the biggest bookstore chain is Barnes & Noble with 627 locations across the country, with a current revenue of $3.6B annually.
- As of 2021 Waterstones, London’s largest bookshop, registered revenues at $314.05 million from the UK alone. Containing more than 200,000 titles it also claims to be the biggest bookstore in Europe.
- A major player in the Australian book industry for over 100 years, Angus & Robertson revenue currently sits at $30.5 Million.
- Archambault and Renaud-Bray are two of the largest book retailers in Canada and as of 2021 generated a total revenue of over 1.1 billion Canadian dollars ($1 billion US dollars).
- With 378 bookstalls, 121 counter tables and 397 trolleys at 258 major stations around the country, AH Wheeler has a long history in India and currently has a revenue of approximately $5 million.
The future isn’t entirely grim for independent booksellers. In fact, the closure of bigger retailers may actually have helped some independent bookstores to thrive.
- Independent bookstores had 2023 locations in the US as of 2022.
- This number peaked in 2019 with independent bookstores having 1,887 bookstores and 2,524 locations.
- This number decreased again in 2020 to 1,700 stores and 2,100 locations, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Independent bookstores had 1,401 bookstores in 1,651 locations in 2009.
- 8,109 non-employer bookstores were counted in the United States according to the Census Bureau in 2018.
- In 2019 there were 7,742 nonemployer bookstores, that’s 1,379 less compared to 2012.
Displayed in the chart below are the number of Independent bookstores and number of locations since 2009:
Displayed in the chart below are the number of nonemployer bookstores:
There was a substantial increase in the number of independent bookstores in the US in 2021 and a growing proportion of these are black-owned bookstores and or owned by individuals of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
- It is estimated that in the US there are some 149 black-owned bookstores as of 2022.
- Out of the 2,500 independent bookstores in the country this only accounts for 6%.
- Within the US there has been a 30% increase in the number of black-owned bookstores since 2018.
- The number of Black bookstores peaked with at least 200 in the mid-‘90s, according to the African American Literature Book Club, before decreasing to just 54 in 2014.
Displayed in the chart below is the number of black-owned bookstores:
When it comes to bookstore employees, almost all bookstore firms (90.9%) could be classified by sex, ethnicity and race, as of 2017.
These made up 58.5% of the total sales of all establishments in the industry and 57.3% of the industries employment. The remaining 9.1% accounted for 41.5% of the total sales and 42.7% of the employment.
- There were 59,547 people employed in bookstores as of 2020 in the US.
- Between the years 2018 and 2020 the number of people employed in bookstores decreased on average by 11.4%.
- Across the US, bookstore employees salaries currently range between $25,000 to $52,000 with top earners making $81,500 annually.
- As of 2020, with an annual payroll of $849,246, 59,547 people were employed in bookstores.
- 64.8% of bookstore employees are female and have a $27,539 income, whereas 35.2% are male employees and have a $27,281 income.
- Making up 60.2% of all bookstore employees, the most common ethnicity among bookstores is White, Hispanic or Latino makeup 18.3% and Black or African American 9.9%.
Presented in the charts below is the number of bookstore employees in the US from 2012 to 2020:
Presented in the chart below is the percentage of male and female employees in bookstores:
In 2021, the bookstore industry sat at $9.5 billion, an amount that had been decreasing at a 5.7% rate every year, on average, since 2016. This decline in revenue is due to many factors; rising competition from online retailers and increasing popularity of e-books.
Even though bookstore revenue is decreasing and bookstores make a low profit, it’s necessary now to ask whether or not bookstores will last in the future.
- In 2020 print book sales saw a rise of 8.2% and in 2021, units increased to 750.9 million, from 693.7 million compared to the year before.
- Bookstore sales fell nearly 30% according to the US Census Bureau in 2020.
- Based on the Economic Census, books made up 70.9% total bookstore sales in 2017.
- US bookstores have shown a gradual decrease in revenue overall, a loss of 47.4%. from $15,238 million, between 2010 and 2021.
- In the United Kingdom, total revenue sales of books and journals reached 6.7 billion British pounds in 2021.
- As of 2023 the Australian bookstore market is at $1.4 billion.
- A total of 52.83 million books were sold in Canada in 2021, generating a revenue of over $1.1 billion dollars.
- India, the sixth largest book market in the world and the second largest English language book market, is currently worth $3.21 billion.
Displayed in the chart below is bookstore revenue by year: