The story of print book sales in Canada in 2020 in some ways mirrors the story of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: print book sales were down overall, but some categories, including games, education, and thrillers, saw a rise in sales last year, according to the latest research from BookNet Canada.

BookNet’s annual market overview, The Canadian Book Market 2020, was released this week. The report found that although the value of print-book sales was down 5.3 per cent from 2019 when using a set of comparable stores, certain categories saw growth from the previous year. 

In an echo of the pursuits Canadians turned to when they were stuck indoors for a months-long lockdown last spring, English-language books in categories such as games, education, and thrillers saw a rise in sales.

In another reflection of the pandemic’s effects on daily life, print book sales were down more than 40 per cent in travel and foreign language study.

Although sales of children’s nonfiction books were down slightly from 2019, the category increased its market share from 8.8 per cent to 9.4 per cent of the whole market, according to the report. 

More than half of all print book purchases made in 2020 – 65 per cent – were made online.

Barack Obama’s A Promised Land was the bestselling book overall, and Jeanine Cummings’s American Dirt: A Novel was the bestselling in fiction. Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever was the top-selling title from a Canadian-owned publisher.

The report includes detailed information about book sales in Canada over more than 50 categories as well as information about how consumers find books, and is based on data from 2,850 store locations that report physical book sales to BookNet and periodic online surveys of 2,750 book buyers.

BookNet Canada is a non-profit that develops technology, standards, and education for the Canadian book industry.