Book, Magazine overall Sales Robust Amid Pandemic

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tsuyoshi Takahata, right, owner of a bookstore, is seen in his store in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, on Jan. 22.

Estimated sales of paper books and magazines in 2020, excluding electronic publications, fell 1.0% from the previous year to ¥1.224 trillion, according to a survey by the Research Institute for Publications, a research organization mainly made up of publishers and publication wholesalers.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the decline rate narrowed from 2019, when sales declined 4.3%. It is said that the allure of books was being reevaluated as people refrained from going out, and that sales at bookstores in towns and shopping districts were strong.

According to the institute, sales of books decreased by 0.9% to ¥666.1 billion, while those of magazines decreased by 1.1% to ¥557.6 billion.

Electronic publishing, on the other hand, rose sharply by 28.0% to ¥393.1 billion, thanks to strong sales of electronic comics. The total size of the paper and electronic publishing market increased by 4.8% to ¥1.617 trillion.

In addition to the wildly popular “Kimetsu no Yaiba” (Demon Slayer) manga series, demand for illustrated learning books and exercise books increased, and there was also a boost in sales of masterpieces such as French writer Albert Camus’ “La Peste” (The Plague).

Major publication distributor Tohan Corp. said that according to sales data by location for bookstores that Tohan deals with, sales at bookstores in suburbs, residential areas and shopping malls increased 10% to 20% year-on-year in April last year, when the first state of emergency was declared following the spread of infections.

At a bookstore located in a shopping district in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, penmanship books sold nearly five times more than usual between April and May last year. Store owner Tsuyoshi Takahata said, “Maybe people who had time to try something they had wanted to do for a long time bought the books and studied.”

Yoshio Tsujiyama, owner of another bookstore in the same ward, said: “When the store was closed due to the declaration of a state of emergency, a customer looked through the half-opened shutters and came to buy books. I think books that are useful for readers to rethink about themselves have sold well.”