Bookstore sales rose 3.5% in March over the same month in 2017, according to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales for the month were $734 million, up from $709 million a year ago.

The March increase followed a 2.3% gain in February, which ended a six-month slide in bookstore sales. The two-month rally in bookstore sales, however, was not quite enough to overcome the steep decline bookstore sales posted in January.

As a result bookstore sales fell 2.8% in the first quarter of 2018, compared to the first period of 2017. Sales were $2.74 billion in this year’s first quarter, down from $2.82 billion in the comparable period in 2017.

Sales for the entire retail sector rose 5.8% in March and were up 4.7% in the first quarter of 2018 over the first period of 2017.

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