Online Book Sales Statistics

Online Book Sales Statistics

While most businesses that relied on physical contact between the seller and customer faced some big challenges over the last few years, the e-commerce sector thrived. Online sales went through the roof during the pandemic’s worst period, and the trend is not slowing down.

The book industry wasn’t any different in this regard. Online book sales are the main reason why the book-selling business survived and even improved over the last couple of years.

  • Over $18,59 billion in online retail book sales are accumulated annually as of 2020.
  • Over the last 10 years, people in the US spent over $125 billion on online book shopping.
  • Online book sales soared during 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak and were 24.2% bigger than online sales in 2019.
  • During the first pandemic year, online book sales increased at the same rate as the previous 4 years combined. In other words, online book sales grew at a 4-year rate during one pandemic year.
  • Revenue from online book sales has doubled over the last 9 years, jumping from $8.8 billion in 2011.
  • During this period, online book sales grew at an average rate of 8.8% annually, peaking at 24.2% in 2020.
YearOnline book sales revenue ($ billion)Change

However, the online retail sector in the US has been expanding at a faster overall rate compared to just books, and today online book sales represent a small fraction of total online retail sales in the US:

  • As of 2020, online book sales represent 2.6% of the total online retail sales revenue in the US.
  • This is a 12% drop compared to 2019, when online book sales accounted for 3% of all retail sales.
  • Over the last 10 years, the share of online books in total online retail sales dropped from 5.2% to 2.6%, which is a 50% drop.
  • On average, this share has been declining by 7% annually since 2011.
  • At the start of the 21st century, online book sales accounted for 8.3% of total retail sales in the United States.

Online book sales have become the dominant source of income for the publishing industry in the United States. Lockdowns during the pandemic just speeded up this process, but even before the Covid outbreak, online book sales accounted for more than 50% of the publishing industry’s revenue in the US:

  • In 2020, over 71.2% of the publishing industry’s total revenue came from online book sales.
  • This is a 22.6% jump from the 2019 level, then online book sales accounted for 58.1% of total publishing revenue.
  • 2017 was the first year when online sales represented the majority of the industry’s revenue, with 50.6%.
  • Online book sales went from accounting for less than one-third of total sales in 2011 to almost three-quarters of total sales in 2020, jumping from 32.2% to 71.2% over 10 years.
  • During this period, the share of online book sales in total has increased by 9% per year, on average.
YearShare of online book sales in total revenueChange