Digital fiction to overtake paperbacks in 2014, says Nielsen

Nielsen is predicting that fiction e-books will overtake sales of fiction paperbacks, but not until 2014, according to its latest digital report based on the Kantar World panel. It has also noted a further slowdown in e-book growth, with year-on-year sales falling for the first time.

According to its "Understanding the E-Book Consumer" July report, Nielsen estimates that for next year e-book sales of fiction will amount to 47m units, some 300,000 ahead of the paperback figure and 48% of total fiction sales. However, because the average selling price of an e-book is less than £3, compared to £5.50 for a paperback, the value of e-book sales in 2014 will be only 32% of the fiction total.

According to Nielsen, lower revenues from e-books are not the only worry for publishers. Print revenues are declining too. "We predict the value of the overall fiction market will fall 16% this year, and by a further 4% in 2014. Sales of hardback and paperback novels are falling faster than sales of fiction e-books are rising," Nielsen said.

Sales in April fell for the third consecutive month, and for the first time ever have shown a year-on-­year decline. Nielsen Kantar data reveals that e­‐book sales totalled 3.3m units – down 9.8% on the previous four-­week sales period and down 0.1% on the comparative period last year. However, the number of new e‐book buyers was up on the March figure, bringing the total number of e-­book buyers in the UK market to 9 million. Nielsen said the decline in e-book sales was down to a fall in sales of children's e-books, principally sales of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilology that received a considerable boost in sales when the first film of the first novel in the series was released last year.