After several months of outperforming the rest of the retail world, bookstores took a hit in June, as the monthly Census Bureau reports showed a 7.1 percent drop in sales, cutting the sector’s gains in the first half of 2008 to 3.1 percent (which was actually on par with the entire retail segment). Now the Association of American Publishers has released their June data, and it’s showing a 1.6 percent increase for the month—and a 0.2 percent drop in business over the last six months.
Over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jennifer Howard focuses attention on the drop in university press textbook sales, with no readily identifiable cause. Is it “the perpetual anomalies caused by used-book sales, new editions, new competition, and the whims of the professors,” as one press director suggests? Or have digital pirates been stealing away customers? Either way, another insider warns, “this is bad timing, very bad timing all the way around.”