The Canadian book industry is a reflection of the country’s diverse literary voices and traditions and the country has produced many internationally best-selling authors. While the pandemic was hard on certain aspects of the industry, especially brick-and-mortar bookstores, the industry has bounced back since the pandemic restrictions were lifted.

In this article, we explore the statistics on the Canadian publishing industry, including the industry’s statistical profile and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the industry. You will also gain an insight into the book-buying habits of the Canadian people.

Book Publishing Industry Statistics for Canadians

  • Over 10,000 books are published in Canada every year.
  • 65% of Canadian publishing companies are considered small businesses.
  • 61% of Canadian publishers reported improved print book revenues in 2021.
  • 99% of Canadian book publishers are on Facebook.
  • Trade books are the focus of 89% of Canadian publishers.
  • Small and medium-sized publishers saw increased revenues from e-books in 2021.
  • The book publishing industry’s operating revenue declined by over 4% between 2018 and 2020.
  • E-book sales grew by over 30% in 2020.
  • 73% of books purchased in 2022 were print books.
  • Canadian book buyers are most likely to buy fiction books written for adults.

Canadian Book Publishing Industry Profile

Every year over 10,000 books are published by the Canadian book publishing industry. According to Booknet Canada which tracked 855,076 unique ISBNs, 51,514,069 physical books were sold in 2022 in Canada.

Most publishing companies in Canada have been in business for several decades. Overall, 40% of publishing companies have been in operation for at least 35 years and mid-sized and large companies are more likely to be well-established than smaller companies. Among small publishing companies, 73% had been in the publishing business for less than 35 years.

The majority of Canadian publishers, at 65%, are small companies with a gross revenue of less than $1 million in 2021. 26% are medium-sized companies with gross revenues between $1 million and $9.999.999. Large publishers, with gross revenues of over $10 million, make up 9% of Canadian publishing companies.

As the country began to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, 22% of publishers saw their revenues increase between 11% and 25% in 2021. Smaller publishers were more likely to see increases within this increase bracket, while mid-sized and large publishing companies were more likely to see their revenues increase between 1% and 10%. There were also 14% of companies, across all sizes, whose revenues flatlined and 23% who saw their revenues decrease between 2020 and 2021.

The Number of New Titles Published Per Year Has Decreased Since 2014

According to Statistics Canada, the number of new titles published in Canada has been declining since 2014 when 13,255 new titles were published. In 2016, there were 12,954 new titles, in 2018 11,396 new titles, and 2020 10,434 new titles. In 2020, 7,743 of these new titles were by Canadian authors, while 2,691 were by foreign authors.

Revenues of All Types of Books Increased in 2021

The book publishing industry bounced back in 2021 with 61% of publishers reporting increased print book revenues. 52% of publishers also saw an increase in e-book revenues and 28% said their audiobook revenues increased.

Consumers Can Buy Books Directly from the Majority of Publishers

While selling books through third parties, both through brick-and-mortar stores and online stores, is vital for book publishers, they are also increasingly selling books directly to consumers. In 2021, 90% of publishers sold books directly to their customers.

Publishing Industry Marketing

The publishing industry has been quick to utilise the power of digital media in advertising. In 2021, the most successful marketing strategies included using social media and videos at 21% and 15%. Organising events such as author signings were also seen as a successful marketing strategy at 19%.

Most Canadian publishers have at least one social media account. 99% of publishing companies in Canada are active on Facebook, 90% are active on Twitter, and 85% are active on Instagram.

Most Canadian Publishers Focus on Trade Books

Most Canadian publishers, at 89%, focus on publishing trade books. Books categorised as adult trade titles were the most popular focus at 38%. Literary titles came next with 18% and children’s books third with 16%. 4% of publishers focused on books for young adults and children and 14% had an equal focus on all trade titles. Larger publishers were the most likely to publish books in all segments at 43%, while small publishers were the most likely to specialise with only 6% focusing on all trade titles.

There was also a lot of focus on Canadian writers in 2021. This was especially true for small and mid-sized publishing companies- 96% of books published by small and 97% of books by mid-sized companies had at least one Canadian contributor, either a Canadian citizen or a person with a permanent residency in Canada.

E-Book Revenue Increased for Most Publishers in 2021

While Canadians are still buying print books, more people are reading e-books. In 2021, 67% of medium-sized publishing companies increased their revenue from e-book sales. 48% of small companies saw improved e-book sales. 17% of medium-sized and 16% of small publishing companies saw no change in e-book revenue between 2020 and 2021. In contrast, 57% of large publishing companies saw their e-book revenue decrease year on year.

71% of publishers derived e-book revenue from retailers, 62% from library wholesale, and 48% from direct sales to customers. Far fewer publishers had no direct consumer sales in 2021 than in 2019 at 26% compared to 40%.

Audiobook Revenue Increased in 2021

Publishers in all size categories saw increased revenue from audiobooks in 2021. Large publishers increased their audiobook revenues by 43% and mid-sized publishers by 40%. Among small publishers, only a fifth of the companies reported increased revenue from the sale of audiobooks.

Working in the Book Publishing Industry

The majority of people working in the book publishing industry are between 30 and 39 years old, with 32.71% of employees coming from this age group. The second largest groups are the 40-49-year-olds and 20-29-year-olds, representing 23.29% and 20.47% of the workforce respectively.

Most people in the industry are full-time employees at 70.39%. Freelancing is the second most common employment status at 13.67%, while 6.61% are on a contract and 5.24% work part-time.

According to a diversity survey on the publishing industry, women represent over three-quarters (75.24%) of the workforce. 16.75% are men, 5.19% non-binary, and 3.54% gender non-conforming. 1.18% of the employees identified as transgender and 0.47% as two-spirit, while 1.42% preferred not to answer and another 1.42% identified as other.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Book Publishing Industry in Canada

The book publishing industry, like so many other industries, was directly affected by the COVID-19-related restrictions. Brick-and-mortar bookstores had to close, which limited book sales for large portions of 2020 and led to decreased revenue from book sales. Total book sales declined by $74.6 million from 2018 to 2020.

Despite the increase in the sales of e-books and print books through online stores, operating revenue declined by 4.4% between 2018 and 2020. However, expenses fell faster than revenue, by 7.4%. This meant that the profit margin for book publishers in Canada increased from 7.6% to 10.5% from 2018 to 2020. Wages, salaries, benefits, and commissions, which form the largest expense area for the industry, declined 7.7% during the same period.

More People Worked From Home

Following the restrictions put in place because of the pandemic, more publishing industry employees worked from home. 63.2% of publishing companies asked some or all of their staff to work from home and 42.4% switched to or expanded a contactless way of working. In addition, 30.4% invested in a platform that facilitated e-commerce.

E-Commerce Sales of Books Grew in 2020

Because Canadian bookbuyers could not access brick-and-mortar stores, they turned to online booksellers for their book purchases. As a result, online sales of print books increased by 23.4% to $234.5 million between 2018 and 2020. E-book sales grew even faster, at 31.4% to $226.3 during the same period. In 2020, 40% of total book sales were internet sales and e-books compared to 26.3% in 2016.

Profile of Canadian Book Buyers

Approximately 18% of Canadians describe themselves as book buyers. On average, these book buyers bought 2.6 books a month in 2022. 1.6 were print books, 0.8 were e-books, and 0.3 were audiobooks. This means that 73% of all books purchased in 2022 in Canada were print books, 17% were e-books, and just 6% were audiobooks.

Over 70% of Book Buyers Bought Books for Adults in 2022

Canadian readers are most likely to purchase fiction written for adults. 73% bought adult books, while 16% bought books directed at young adults and 11% bought children’s books. The majority of adult books, at 61%, were fiction books.

In 2022, the most popular fiction genre in Canada was fantasy, accounting for 16% of fiction book purchases. Suspense & thriller and mystery & detective shared the number two spot for fiction genres, each with 14% of all book purchases. The top five fiction genres were completed by general fiction with 13% of the share and romance with 12%.

Biographies and memoirs were the most popular non-fiction genres, making up 22% of all non-fiction purchases. Self-help books were also popular with a 17% share. History and spiritual books were fourth and fifth with 13% and 8% shares of the total. In third place was “other” non-fiction with 15% of all non-fiction books purchased in 2022.

Book Buyers Returned to In-Person Buying in 2022

After the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, Canadian bookbuyers returned to brick-and-mortar bookstores in 2022. In 2019, before the pandemic, the split between online and in-store purchases was almost even. As the pandemic closed physical bookstores, online purchases grew to 65% of all book purchases, both in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, Canadians still bought more books online than in-store but the difference was smaller with 58% online and 42% in-store purchases.

31% of book buyers said convenience was an important factor when choosing where to buy their books. Other key factors included good price or offer at 29%, immediate availability at 28%, wide selection of books at 23%, and easy checkout process at 20%.

Most Canadian Book Buyers Spend up to $49 in a Month on Books

In 2022, 64% of Canadian book buyers spent up to $49 per month on books, while 18% spent between $50 and $99. The average price paid for a paperback was $15.86 and for a hardcover, it was $23.06. E-books and audiobooks were cheaper, averaging $12.62 and $12.87, respectively.

Conclusion

Canadians are a big book-buying nation with over 51 million books bought in 2022 and over 10,000 new titles published every year. The book publishing industry, like most other industries, felt the impact of the pandemic and saw their revenues fall temporarily. However, since the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, the book industry has recovered well.

The average Canadian book buyer buys over two books a month across print and digital formats and most books sold in Canada are still physical books. Online shopping for books surged during the pandemic and, while many have returned to brick-and-mortar stores since then, online book purchases are now more common in Canada than in-store purchases.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is a lot of competition to have your book published in Canada. Anyone wishing to find a publisher for their book needs to do their research first. Finding a publisher that is the right fit for you and the genre your book represents will give you a better chance of being picked up by a publisher.

In 2020, there were over 10,000 new books published in Canada. This was fewer new titles than in the previous years.

Yes, Canadians still buy plenty of books both online and in physical bookstores. According to Booknet Canada, over 51 million physical books were sold in Canada in 2022. Print books are the most common type in Canada but people also purchase e-books and audiobooks.

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