Costco to stop selling books in surprise blow to publishers: report

Costco will no longer offer books for sale year-round and will instead stock them only for the holiday shopping period and during special promotions, according to a report — a surprise move that poses yet another threat to the publishing industry.

Several publishing executives who were informed of the retailer’s plans told The New York Times that Costco will cease offering books for sale on a consistent basis starting in January.

The decision was met with criticism on Reddit, where users vented that the decision was akin to “cancelling the hot dog in the food court” — a reference to Costco’s beloved $1.50 hot dog-and-soda bundle deal that remains a hit with customers.

The executives said that Costco was looking to cut back on labor costs associated with stocking books, which is often done by hand.

Unlike books, many of Costco’s other products are rolled out on a pallet.

Costco staffers also have to devote considerable manpower to put new books on display every week when they are released for sale while returning old books that went unsold.

The Post has sought comment from Costco.

The decision is a blow to the publishing industry given that Costco buys books in bulk — ordering tens of thousands of copies of a book at a minimum — and offers them for sale to shoppers who may not otherwise seek them out.

Costco across the country was a big outlet for books, Robert Gottlieb, a literary agent who heads Trident Media Group, told the Times.

There are now fewer and fewer places to buy books in a retail environment.

Last week, Costco reported robust earnings in its most recent quarter as cash-strapped consumers flocked to its warehouses to grab low-priced discretionary items and groceries.

Costco’s total revenue was $58.52 billion for the quarter ended May 12, compared with analysts’ average estimate of $58.07 billion, according to LSEG data.

The company also posted a profit of $3.78 per share, above estimates of $3.70.

The book industry is facing economic headwinds as younger people migrate to online sources.

Last year, more than 767 million books were sold in the US — a slight drop of 2.6% compared to the 787 million books that were sold in 2022.

Despite the drop, the 767 million figure is well above pre-pandemic levels.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, book sales surged in the US, according to data compiled by Statista.

In 2019, more than 697 million books were sold nationwide.

The next year, the number leaped to 756.82 million.

In 2021, while the country was at the height of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, books sales hit a record of 837.66 million.

In 2022, the federal government blocked a proposed deal that would have seen Penguin Random House acquire Simon & Schuster.

The publishing industry has been beset by increasing consolidation as larger houses such as Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Hachette and Simon & Schuster have bought up small and midsize publishing firms.

The book publishing industry in the US generates more than $28 billion annually.