Sales of ebooks spur publishing market growth

EBOOK sales are driving the book market to growth despite falls in print revenue, with sales of the format almost trebling in the first half of the year, data showed yesterday.

Figures from the Publishers Association (PA)’s Sales Monitor report showed that digital sales – ebooks, audiobook downloads and online book subscriptions – had risen to £145m in the six months from January, making up 12.9 per cent of total book sales in the UK.

This was driven by a 180 per cent rise in consumer ebooks over the same period, meaning that despite a small drop in printed book sales on the same period in 2011, the combined book market was worth £1.13bn over the period, up more than six per cent on last year.

Consumer ebook growth has slowed from an even more blistering pace in previous years however. The same study from 2010 and 2011 reported 623 per cent and 366 per cent sales rises respectively.

Ebooks now outsell hardcover and paperback books combined at Amazon’s UK website and US bookseller Barnes & Noble recently stepped into Britain with the launch of its Nook ereader.

The PA said fiction ebooks had seen the strongest growth, with sales up 188 per cent on last year. Children’s ebooks were up 171 per cent, with non-fiction up 128 per cent.

“The results show that British publishing continues to perform strongly despite difficult economic conditions,” PA chief executive Richard Mollet said. “In particular, the huge increase in digital sales shows how rapidly readers and publishers are embracing ebook reading.”

The ebook industry in the UK has grown faster than in many other markets including the US, although it faces a growing piracy threat as ereader sales rise. Mollet yesterday defended digital rights management software in ebooks, which prevents copies being traded between devices.

“The PA is at the forefront of calls to government to ensure that copyright is not eroded and that creators’ rights are protected and supported online,” he said.

Digital book sales rose 89% to £145m in the first half of the year

12.9% of book sales were digital, up from 7.2% a year ago

Fiction ebooks rose 188% with non-fiction rising 128%

Combined market now worth £2.26bn a year