Book sales grew 4% in 2012, says PA

Total book sales in digital and physical formats grew 4% in 2012 to a total of £3.3bn, according to The Publishers Association Statistics Yearbook 2012.

That overall growth contrasts with a 2% dip recorded the year before, when a rise in digital sales did not compensate for the decline of physical sales.

The 2012 rise was boosted by big digital leaps, with total digital sales up 66% (£411m), total consumer e-book sales up 134% (£216m) and total fiction digital sales up 149% (£172m).

However, in the year of the Fifty Shades phenomenon, total physical sales of fiction books also grew, by 3% (£502m). Physical and digital sales of fiction combined rose 21% to £674m.

Conversely, physical sales of non-fiction declined by 2% overall, and physical sales of reference material were down 8%. The overall value of the physical market was down 1% on 2011. 

Richard Mollet, chief executive at the Publishers Association (PA), said the Fifty Shades phenomenon was "only part" of the industry's overall sales rise.

"It's still early days with schools, but their digital sales were up 50%, although only 4% of the total market," he said. "In academic, digital sales were up 23% to 16% of the total market, and the overall market was just over £1bn, up 0.5% on the previous year. Because we're such a diverse sector, there are a lot of areas where things can go right to give us the same performance next year. The underlying trend with digital innovation shows we are set fair to perform well, and if the wider economic performance improves
in the coming year, that will help."

Another "impressive" figure from the 2012 statistics was that the export share of total physical value sales had remained level at 41% "despite the very difficult global economic picture", Mollet said. The distribution of international sales remained broadly consistent with the previous year, with Europe forming 36% of export, South East Asia 15%, and the Middle East and North Africa 13%, he added.

Mollet also made the point that British publishers have been able to "invest in exciting, innovating products and in great authors thanks to the strong framework provided by copyright law, which continues to be the cornerstone of stability for a creative industry."

The PA's Statistics Yearbook is based on surveys including the ongoing Publishers Association Sales Monitor data collection scheme (PASM).