Looking back at 2023 in Australia and New Zealand

The print book market in Australia decreased in value and volume against 2022 in low single digits (-2% for both), however it’s important to note that 2022 was the highest value and volume year in BookScan Australia’s 20 years of data. If we compare 2023 to just one year earlier, it’s above 2021 by +5% in volume and +6% in value. Zooming back further to a pre-pandemic 2019, 2023 is +16% ahead in value and +15% in volume. When we compare this to our neighbours in New Zealand, they experienced a slightly bigger drop in their volume (-7%) and value (-5%) bringing their market back to levels seen pre-pandemic 2019. 

The sector with the most growth was Adult Fiction, rising by +5% on last year even after a double-digit lift of +19% in 2022. Adult Fiction’s volume increase was a touch lower at 3%. Adult Fiction was the second largest category by value at $383m, with Trade Non-Fiction the highest value category at $481m. It dipped in value and volume on last year (-4% for both) after a rise in 2022 of +7% in value and +1% in volume. Children’s books were down –4% in value and –3% in volume; however 2022 saw its value rise by +13% and volume by +11%. Similarly our neighbours in New Zealand saw slight year on year uplift in Adult Fiction (+2%) and a decline of –1% in volume keeping it flat year on year.  

Looking at what caught Australian readers’ hearts and wallets this year, we really must start with Spare (Penguin Random House). Price Harry’s eagerly anticipated memoir launched in January, quickly notching the biggest first week of sales for a memoir in Australia since BookScan records began in December 2002. Also in the Non-Fiction space, RecipeTin Eats: Dinner (Nagi Maehashi, Pan Macmillan) was selling strongly following its late 2022 release and would overtake Spare in volume sales halfway through the year, eventually becoming the highest selling title of 2023 overall. 2018’s Personal Development title Atomic Habits (James Clear, Penguin Random House) slid into second place for Non-Fiction titles by the end of the year, with Spare close behind in third.  

In the Fiction category, the influence of TikTok is ever-present, with both It Ends With Us and follow-up It Starts with Us (Colleen Hoover, Simon & Schuster) both in the overall top 10, as well as other titles popular in the #BookTok realm: Fourth Wing and sequel Iron Flame (Rebecca Yarros, Hachette) and Icebreaker (Hannah Grace, Simon & Schuster). Other Fiction titles that made a big splash in the overall top 10 were Australian Pip William’s The Bookbinder of Jericho (Affirm Press) and Lessons in Chemistry (Bonnie Garmus, Penguin Random House).  

There were no Children’s titles in the overall top 10 of 2023, but there were a number of titles that shot high in the charts: Barefoot Kids (Scott Pape, HarperCollins), Moon Rising: Wings of Fire #6 (Tui T Sutherland, Scholastic) and Bluey: Happy Easter (Penguin Random House) early in the year, and Dog Man 11: Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea (Dav Pilkey, Scholastic), The 169-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan Macmillan), No Brainer: Diary of a Wimpy Kid 18 (Jeff Kinney, Penguin Random House) later on.  

2023 saw Australian and New Zealand readers share some overlaps in their top purchases. Shared titles in the top 10s included Spare, Atomic Habits (James Clear, Penguin Random House) and Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us and It Starts with Us continuing to stay in the top 10 for 2023. Lucinda Riley and Harry Whittaker’s Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt (Pan Macmillan) saw the top position in New Zealand. It had the highest sales week selling over 11.6k copies in its first week of sales and more than doubling the second highest debut week in 2023, which was held by Spare (Prince Harry, Penguin Random House). Local author Eleanor Catton came in fourth with Birnam Wood (Te Herenga Waka University Press). Despite being published in late October, Christmas #1 and NZ favourite author, Lee Child and Andrew Child’s The Secret (Penguin Random House) sold enough copies to hit the #2 overall position by year end. New Zealand’s top 10 included one Children’s title in the top 10; Dog Man 11: Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea (Dav Pilkey, Scholastic) but like Australia’s top 10, it was also dominated by Adult Fiction titles.