“Fifty Shades of Grey” Was the Best-Selling Book of the Decade in the U.S., The NPD Group Says

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Nonfiction and screen adaptations led U.S. book sales from 2010 to 2019, according to NPD Bookscan

Top-Selling Books 2010-2019

The consumer push for informational titles over fiction was reflected in larger non-fiction trends in the second half of the decade—such as the rise in cookbooks, self-help, and politics—which pushed more non-fiction titles into the top ten list

The best-selling book of the past decade in the United States was “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E.L. James, which sold 15.2 million copies from 2010 through 2019. In fact, the series holds the top three positions on the decade’s top-ten ranking list, with nearly 35 million print and e-book sales, according to global information company The NPD Group. Many of the recent decade’s top-selling books, including these leaders, were tied to movie adaptations, which is a testament to the marketing power Hollywood brings to book sales.

When comparing the top 10 adult books each year throughout the past decade, more non-fiction titles topped the NPD Bookscan charts in the second half of the decade than in the first half. In 2010, nearly 80 percent of the top-selling titles were fiction, and by 2019 that percentage dropped to 32 percent. “This consumer push for informational titles over fiction was reflected in larger non-fiction trends in the second half of the decade—such as the rise in cookbooks, self-help, and politics—which pushed more non-fiction titles into the top ten list,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst, NPD Bookscan.

Overall 6.5 billion print books were sold over the past decade, compared to just 1.8 billion e-books. “At the start of the decade, digital e-books were expected to decimate print book sales,” McLean said. “However, print books have remained surprisingly resilient. After a high point in 2013, e-books have continuously lost share to print books every year. Looking ahead, the growth in audiobooks is another trend expected to continue well into the next decade, as people shift some of their reading to listening on smart devices.”

Another effect of the advent of smartphones and tablets has been a downward trend in the average page count for leading titles over the past decade. “We ultimately consumed media much differently at the end of the decade than we did at the start,” McLean said. “More forms of media entertainment are now competing for our attention. As a result, the print books we’re reading are shorter, because there are more demands on consumers’ free time, as they stream more video and listen to more podcasts and audiobooks.”

The growth in poetry and self-help categories in the latter half of the decade also shortened the average page count. Leading poetry collections like “Milk and Honey”—along with popular self-help titles like “Girl, Wash Your Face” and “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”—are comparatively short. Each one coming in at under 250 pages.

Rank    Title    Author    Publisher    Year    Unit Sales
1.    Fifty Shades of Grey    E. L. James    Random House    2011    15.2 million
2.    Fifty Shades Darker    E. L. James    Random House    2011    10.4 million
3.    Fifty Shades Freed    E. L. James    Random House    2012    9.3 million
4.    The Hunger Games    Suzanne Collins    Scholastic Books    2008    8.7 million
5.    The Help    Kathryn Stockett    Penguin Group USA    2009    8.7 million
6.    The Girl on The Train    Paula Hawkins    Penguin Group USA    2015    8.2 million
7.    Gone Girl    Gillian Flynn    Random House    2012    8.1 million
8.    The Fault in Our Stars    John Green,    Penguin Group    2012    8 million
9.    The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo    Stieg Larsson    Random House    2008    7.9 million
10.    Divergent    Veronica Roth    Harpercollins Publishers    2011    6.6 million
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Source: The NPD Group / NPD Bookscan, NPD PubTrack Digital, includes U.S. print book and e-book sales, 2010-2019.

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About NPD BookScan
NPD BookScan is the gold standard in point-of-sale tracking for the publishing market, covering approximately 85 percent of all the print books sold in the U.S. through direct reporting from all major retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, independent bookstores, and many others. Each sale of the more than 16 million units tracked on a weekly basis includes geographic information making it possible to identify key markets, map regional sales trends, and index the likelihood of purchase in 200 major metro areas. NPD BookScan is also the exclusive provider of ALR data for Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, and Sam’s Club to U.S. publishers.

About The NPD Group, Inc.
NPD offers data, industry expertise, and prescriptive analytics to help our clients grow their businesses in a changing world. Over 2,000 companies worldwide rely on us to help them measure, predict, and improve performance across all channels, including brick-and-mortar and e-commerce. We have offices in 29 cities worldwide, with operations spanning the Americas, Europe, and APAC. Practice areas include apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, books, B2B technology, consumer technology, e-commerce, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, juvenile products, media entertainment, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, toys, travel retail, video games, and watches. For more information, visit npd.com. Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.

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