Seasonality and celebrations in different book markets
The pattern of the UK print book market throughout the year can be fairly reliable: the peak occurs in the lead up to Christmas, with 8-9m books bought in the final shopping weeks, nearly three times more than lowest weeks of the year. World Book Day introduces another uptick in March, particularly for children’s books, while paperback fiction gets a summer sales boost and fitness & diet books soften the post-Christmas decline. Fluctuations related to individual titles and categories do of course happen, combined with the influence of bigger events (weather-related, societal & cultural, global pandemic, take your pick), but it’s safe to assume that nothing’s climbing that Christmas summit any time soon.
Beyond the UK, it’s interesting to see how those patterns differ in the other countries covered by BookScan. In the graph below you can see the weekly sales trend for the four largest markets that we track, across two rolling years (spanning 4 July 2021 to 1 July 2023). The Christmas peak is still there for Italy, Australia and Spain, although the surrounding season differs across the countries. For instance, Italy doesn’t look to have as much of a gradual build up as we see in the UK and Australia, but all three do experience similar drops after the holiday. In Spain, however, that drop is delayed, thanks to the Christmas and gift-giving season extending to Día de Los Reyes (Three Kings’ Day), which typically results in the first week of January adding up to the highest sales week in Spain each year.
Another difference in the Spanish book market trend stems from the celebration of La Diada de Sant Jordi, or St. George’s Day, in late April, particularly in the Catalonia region. It’s custom to buy loved ones a rose and a book for the day, and given that the book market more than doubles in that week every year, I’d say it’s fair to assume that a lot of people choose to celebrate! That and the start of January are the only weeks throughout the year that print book sales tracked in Spain overtake those in Italy, and while the UK market remains the largest, the gap significantly narrows: in the first week of 2023, half a million books separated the UK and Spanish markets, compared to a usual difference of 2m, while in April, Spain was within 800k of the UK market.
And what kinds of books are driving up the Spanish book market in April? While fiction, non-fiction and children’s all more than doubled compared to the previous week in 2022 and 2023, fiction posted the biggest increase in both years, accounting for nearly 40% of books bought in the week leading up to the event. The top title this year was thriller El Ángel de la Ciudad, the latest in Eva García Sáenz de Urturi’s Kraken series. What better way to show your love than with a crime book!
Bringing those four countries together, we can still see that spike in April for La Diada de Sant Jordi, most pronounced for fiction as shown below, along with the UK-driven uptick in children’s books for World Book Day. September’s back-to-school season also accelerates the educational side of the children’s market, a few months before that standard Christmas climb. For most of the year either children’s or fiction, or both, outpace non-fiction in these countries combined, apart from Christmas and a number of weeks at the start of the year, although in 2023, non-fiction’s reign was cut to five weeks from January into February, down from seven in 2022.
We may be past these celebrations of books and reading for 2023, but no need to wait around for Christmas; really any time of year is the right time to buy a book (and maybe a rose) for yourself or a loved one!
Based on data collected from BookScan retailer panels in the UK, Spain, Italy and Australia, to 1 July 2023. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.