Stampede for Dr. Seuss titles sends book sales up 34%

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The book industry saw sales surge 34 percent last week — thanks in part to the stampede for Dr. Seuss titles following moves to end the publication of six books over racially offensive images.

Of course, book sales have been soaring generally as people look for ways to entertain themselves during the pandemic. But last week’s surge of 34.2 percent compared to a year ago was especially stunning.

Much of the demand was driven by Dr. Seuss, which commanded four of the top five bestselling books on the week ending March 8, according to figures from NDP Bookscan, which tracks the industry.

“Cat in the Hat” sold about 105,000 copies last week, compared to 22,000 copies in the first week of March last year. Sales of “Green Eggs and Ham” nearly tripled to 90,000 from 34,000, and “One Fish Two Fish Blue Fish Red Fish” sold 88,000 copies compared to 26,000 in the same week a year ago.

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” jumped to 74,000 from 43,000, while “Fox in Socks” rose to 64,000 from 23,000.

The bonanza, first reported Thursday by Publishers Weekly, followed news last week that Dr. Seuss Enterprises would stop publishing six of 60 Seuss titles: “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”

Sister Souljah’s new novel “Life After Death,” was the only non-Dr. Seuss book to crack the weekly top five, landing at number four with 80,000 copies sold, while Stephen King’s latest tome “Later” sold 57,000 copies, putting it in seventh place, according to NDP Bookscan, which tracks an estimated 80 percent of the industry.

The Seuss stampede triggered a jump in sales of all juvenile books, up 58 percent on the week. In addition to the boost from Seuss, sales also benefited from the kickoff of Read Across America on March 1, sponsored by the National Education Association.

Young adult fiction books jumped 45.1 percent while adult fiction was up 40 percent compared to the same week a year ago in pre-COVID shutdown America.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the copyright owner of books written by the late author Theodore Seuss Geisel, said it was ending publication because the six books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

Any remaining copies of the six banned titles quickly disappeared from shelves and online outlets including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But as Media Ink reported, the ban won’t likely hurt booksellers as the six out-of-print books were among the slowest moving of the famous children author’s titles.

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