The Daily Telegraph ran a story about a month ago on a report by the British Publishers Association on their sales for 2012. Sales were up 4% to £3.3 billion. What was particularly interesting was the split between hard copy books and ebooks. Hard copy books accounted for the vast majority of the sales at £2.9 billion. This represented a decline of just 1% over the year. Ebook sales were up 66% to £441 million. Of these total ebook sales, £216 million represented the digital market for fiction and non fiction, and while this figure represented an increase of 134% over 2011, the increase in 2011 over 2010 was 366%! This very significant decrease in the rate of growth of fictional and non-fiction ebooks suggests that there is a resilience of printed books.
Comparisons were made with the music industry where 70-80% of sales are digital. Benedict Evans, an industry analyst at Enders said: “We’ve had this first surge of e-reader ownership, but they are not a direct substitution like digital music. With digital music, you were replacing one piece of consumer electronics with a better piece of consumer electronics. . . . An e-reader or tablet is not better than a book. It is better in some ways, but it is different. There are genres such as romance, sci-fi and business it really works for, where people are often impatient to get new titles or have no physical attachment to the book as an object.
The article was accompanied by comments by Gaby Wood, Head of Books at the Telegraph. He said: “First, digital books are a compliment to, not a replacement for, physical books. Some publishers now offer a hardback with an ebook as a package, since an ebook is easier to carry around, but a hardback is what you want to own, and have on your shelf. What has suffered is the middle ground affordable paperbacks, especially fiction, since this is easiest to read digitally. Second, children’s books are doing very well – physically and digitally – and garnering well-deserved attention. Third, publishers who have a popular cookery book writer on their lists will continue to sell hardbacks for a good while to come” (See Nigella Lawson’s latest book cover, below). . . . “Book jacket designers recognise the need to make their physical products covetable objects.”