The Publishers Association (PA), the UK trade organisation serving book, journal, audio and electronic publishers, has today published its annual Statistics Yearbook for 2011, revealing that consumer e-book sales grew by more than three times (366%) last year, hitting £92m.
Moreover, as Bookseller reports, sales across all digital formats accounted for 8% of all books in terms of value, with PA chief executive Richard Mollet noting that the main takeaway from this is that things aren’t looking so bad even though physical format books are on the decline. “[The] story of the year is a decline in physical sales almost being compensated for by a strong performance in digital,” he said.
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Indeed, according to PA’s data, the combined total sales of digital and physical books decreased by 2% last year to £3.2bn, with consumer e-book sales equaling 6% of physical format book sales by value, with overall digital sales growing by 54% to a value of £243m.
As Mollet notes, sales of all digital formats, encompassing e-books, audiobooks and online subscriptions, accounted for 8% of the total invoiced value of sales of books last year, up from 5% in 2010.
Whilst the overall shift towards digital is clear, in specific niche book markets physical format editions actually increased last year. As Bookseller reports, sales of physical school books (excluding ELT) increased by 6% to £271m last year, with 13% of academic and professional book revenues emanating from digital books. And if you think that rising book prices explains this increase in revenues, think again…it seems that the average book prices actually fell by 1.3% last year, compared with the UK inflation rate of 4.47%.
“For many years now publishers have invested in digital products and services and this is being reflected in the increasingly mixed economy for books in the UK,” added Mollet. “However, online copyright infringement is increasingly making its presence felt for authors and publishers and that is why we continue to call on government and other stakeholders in the digital economy to work with us to do more to tackle it, and to ensure that the UK’s e-commerce performance is as strong as it can possibly be. That said, physical books remain the format of choice for the vast majority of British readers, underlining the continued importance of a strong ‘high street’ sector.”