Are These the Early Days of a Bookstore Boom?

Books — physical books, the kind with paper pages bound between ornamental covers — are flying off the shelves, according to new figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2015 numbers are in, and brick-and-mortar bookstores are reporting sales of $11.17 billion for the year. That’s a 2.5% increase over 2014, a whopping jump of $280 million. That’s roundabout 15 million copies of The Girl on the Train! (Is the entire increase attributable to Paula Hawkins? Could be. Kinda seems like it, doesn’t it?)

This is the first reported increase in bookstore sales since 2007, when there was still a Borders in every mall, Harry Potter was king, and the world financial market hadn’t yet been brought to its knees.

And just in case you think the Census Bureau must be mixing up books and e-books, think again. Publishers Weekly reports that the new numbers confirm “the sales trend of books for the year, which showed print sales on the rise and e-book sales on the decline.” A quick look at the Barnes & Noble holiday sales reports tells the same story, even for stores offering digital and physical books side-by-side. Factor in the recent rumors that Amazon could be opening hundreds of new brick-and-mortar bookstores, and you might be forgiven for thinking we’re in the early days of a bona fide boom.

Will we ever get back to the 2007 glory days, when bookstores were going gangbusters, to the tune of $17 billion a year? Who knows? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t head down to your local indie shop tonight and buy another copy of The Girl on the Train, and maybe even a hardcover from a debut novelist. After all, we all have a part to play. Uncle Sam wants you. That’s what the U.S. Census Bureau seems to think, anyway.

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