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In the United States, Nielsen BookScan was sold to The NPD Group in 2017, and the service was renamed NPD BookScan. Elsewhere in the world, Nielsen BookScan continues to operate as an independent service.
Following the success of Nielsen SoundScan which tracked point of sale figures for music, the Nielsen Company decided to launch a similar service for book sales which had been established and was owned by UK based Whitaker & Sons Ltd. Nielsen BookScan was launched in January 2001. Previously, tracking of book sales, such as by the New York Times Best Seller list, was done without raw numbers. The New York Times would survey hundreds of outlets to estimate which books were selling the most copies, and would publish rankings but not figures. Only the publisher of a book tracked how many copies had been sold, but rarely shared this data.
BookScan operated under Nielsen in the US until 2016 when it was acquired by The NPD Group from Nielsen’s U.S. market information and research services for the book industry. In the U.S. the service has been a part of NPD Book since January, 2017. In the rest of the world the BookScan service remains owned by Nielsen.
Nielsen BookScan relies on point of sale data from a number of major book sellers. In 2009 Nielsen BookScan's US Consumer Market Panel covered 75% of retail sales.
Use of BookScan
BookScan was initially greeted with scepticism, but is now widely used by both the publishing industry and the media. Publishers use the numbers to track the success of their rivals. The media uses the figures as a reference to gauge a title's success. Daniel Gross of Slate has noted the increase of pundits using the figures to disparage each other.
BookScan also provided previously unavailable metrics on books published by multiple publishers, such as classic novels in the public domain which may be published by many different houses. Previously, no single entity had figures for the sales of these books; publishers and bookstores only knew their own sales. Slate noted that Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was available from Amazon in 130 different editions; prior to BookScan there was no way to tabulate total sales. By summing BookScan data, however, Pride and Prejudice was reported to command sales of 110,000 a year, nearly 200 years after being published.
BookScan records cash register sales of books by tracking ISBNs when a clerk scans the barcode. BookScan only tracks print book sales, thus excluding ebook sales from major e-tailers such as Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Apple, and Google Play. BookScan likewise does not include non-retail sales through channels such as libraries, nor specialty retailers who do not report to the service.
Nielsen offers the BookScan service in 10 territories outside the U.S.: the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Mexico, with Poland next to launch.
- Daniel Gross. "Why writers never reveal how many books their buddies have sold." Slate, June 2, 2006. Retrieved on January 5, 2008.
- Jim Milliot and Steven Zeitchik. "Bookscan: Acceptance, And Questions, Grow." Publishers Weekly, January 12, 2004. Retrieved on January 5, 2008.
- Adelle Waldman. "Cents and Sensibility; The surprising truth about sales of classic novels." Slate, April 2, 2003. Retrieved on January 5, 2008.
- Anna Weinberg. "Nielsen BookScan Releases Potter Sales Figures." The Book Standard, July 21, 2005. Retrieved on January 5, 2008.
- "NPD Buys Nielsen's Book Services". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 2019-07-30.
- "The hit makers | The Bookseller". www.thebookseller.com. Retrieved 2019-07-26.
- "Nielsen Sells BookScan, Other U.S. Book Industry Services to NPD Group". American Booksellers Association. 2017-01-20. Retrieved 2018-07-04.
- "Measure". Nielsen Book UK. Retrieved 2019-07-23.
- Börsenblatt für den deutschen Buchhandel, january 20, 2017
- Andrews, Kurt; Napoli, Philip (2006), "Changing Market Information Regimes: A Case Study of the Transition to the BookScan Audience Measurement System in the U.S. Book Publishing Industry", Journal of Media Economics, 19 (1): 33–54, doi:10.1207/s15327736me1901_3.