Costco to Stop Selling Books Year-Round

Starting in 2025, Costco will only sell books during the holidays - approximately the last four months of the year.

Starting in January of 2025, Costco will not sell books year-round anymore. The wholesaler typically stocks a few shelves or tables of print books at all times, but according to a report by The New York Times, the company no longer sees that as a viable strategy. Next year, Costco will only stock books in the holiday shopping season.

Four anonymous sources in the publishing industry told NYT that Costco was preparing to cut back on book sales in 2025, but so far the retailer itself has not commented on the report. Insiders said that one reason given for the change was to ease the burden on employees at the stores and warehouses. Books are heavy – especially in the quantities at which Costco handles merchandise – and they don't fit well into Costco's usual operating strategy. However, according to a report by USA Today, this is unlikely to affect the bottom line for publishers all that much.

USA Today spoke to Jim Milliot, editor-at-large of Publishers Weekly, who estimated that big box stores like Costco and Target comprise just 4 percent of book sales all together. Costco is only a small portion of that, and since the company will still sell books at the busiest time of year, the overall impact probably won't be devastating. Still, analysts argued that this is a symbolic blow to the struggling print industry and publishing in general.

"It was sort of a point of pride within the industry, that books are not just elitist, books had a really solid mass market play," author Thad McIlroy told reporters. "It really meant a lot to the industry that Costco was a strong outlet, and to have it turned into just Christmas gifts, that's not a good thing... [Some people are] just not bookstore people. They don't buy books on Amazon. So I think there's a significant group of people who find their reading enjoyment via Costco, and that's going to be much diminished."

Costco typically stocks books on tables, laid out in stacks rather than on bookshelves. This is one reason they are considered labor-intensive – employees need to unbox and display the books, compared to other products that can just be rolled out on pallets and left in place. The retailer usually stocks hardcovers, particularly large cookbooks and coffee table books. There are also novels in the mix, and the kinds of novelty books that make good gifts for children. Those should still move well around the holidays.

"Costco typically sold books and authors that were already wildly successful," publishing analyst Jane Friedman told USA Today. "If you're a bestselling author or a big publishing house, this isn't welcome news, but it's not going to change how publishing decisions get made. No one acquires books thinking 'This is a Costco book!' It's more like icing on the cake."

The publishing industry has reportedly struggled to keep up with rising operating costs in general, and has compensated by reducing its print volume overall in recent years. At the same time, newer mediums like ebooks, audiobooks and their crossovers are still growing in popularity, while cultural shifts like the "booktok" subculture are driving significant sales as well. Hopefully Costco members with an urge to read will still find their way to the books they want.