Business Books—by the Numbers

In the last post I talked about the business book revolution that was ignited  a quarter century ago. The next logical question is, how big is the business book category today? For example, in any given week, do people buy more cookbooks or more business books? More books on politics or more business books? Let’s take one recent week of actual point-of-purchase sales to compare different non-fiction categories. The numbers below represent the total one week sales of the top 50 books in each designated category, as measured by Nielsen Bookscan (and rounded off to the nearest big number). The results will prepare you well for your next cocktail party when the conversation turns to books: 

  • Art: 11,000 
  • Religion: 58,000
  • Political Science/politics (from Moyers to Blackwater): 67,000 
  • Family/Relations: 70,000
  • Cooking 71,000
  • Business: 105,000
  • Self-help 156,000

In this particular week, well over half of the sales in the self-help category came from one book—The Last Lecture (by Randy Pausch, just as the political category will be dominated by former White House press secretary’s Scott McClellan’s What Happened when that book is released on June 6th). However, there was one other non-fiction category that crushed all of these—biographies and autobiographies. According to Nielsen Bookscan, that part of the bookshelf sold more than 250,00 copies in a single week, led by Barbara Walters’ memoir, Audition (that book sold close to an eye-popping 300,000 copies in three weeks). However, don’t count business books out yet. September—the start of the school year—and January—replete with New Year’s resolutions—are two of the best months for business books. Be sure to come back right after Labor Day when we take another snapshot of these key categories. 


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