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Digital sales now worth 6%, as e-books grow 300% in 2010

The digital publishing market is now worth 6% of UK publishers' sales, the Publishers Association has revealed, with consumer digital sales up more than 300% in 2010 to £16m—the third year of treble digit growth, and e-book sales at £13m.

The PA estimated that the digital consumer market was now close to £20m, including sales from those publishers not included in the PA yearbook panel.

The figures are revealed in the PA's annual yearbook, which showed that total book sales increased by 2% in value terms to £3.1bn over the past year, while the volume of sales has fallen by 3% to £739m. Export sales rose 4% to £1.25bn and represent 40% of publishers’ revenues.

Richard Mollet, PA chief executive, said the figures showed that "digital publishing is growing at an impressive rate in whichever part of the sector you choose to look".  And added: “Now that technology is putting e-reading devices into consumers’ hands, we are starting to see the rapid growth of digital sales in this area too, as consumer publishers develop digital formats to reach wider audiences." He stressed that innovation in the digital marketplace and the strength of British publishers’ export performance was "only possible because of the robust and flexible copyright framework which underpins the UK creative industries".

The PA said that combined digital sales, including academic, professional and schools, grew to £120m in 2010, representing growth of 38%. The largest segment was the academic and professional field with digital sales of £84m, showing growth of 29%. The market share of consumer digital sales of e-books and downloads increased from 2% to 11% of all digital sales from 2009 to 2010.

Of the £16m figure for general consumer digital sales reported for 2010, £6m were fiction (three times the 2009 equivalent), £1m were non-fiction (again, around three times the 2009 figure), and £1m were children’s books (a five-fold increase on 2009). The remaining £8m consumer sales were not broken down by category.

The average invoiced unit price for general consumer digital products was £4.56 in 2010, up from £3.93 for the equivalent 2009. These average prices were higher than for the equivalent physical books (£2.97 in 2010, up from £2.82 in 2009). The PA found that 3.4m units were sold, nearly four times the equivalent for 2009.

The PA also splits out "consumer reference" digital sales, for those digital reference titles that bear little relation to digital versions of more general non-fiction titles, with sales in 2010 of £14m.

Including estimate sales from non-members, the PA reckoned that digital sales were worth £170-180m, and would represent around 5-6% of the combined physical and digital sales of UK publishers in 2010, although that proportion would vary between around 11-13% of sales in the academic/professional sector, 10-12% of consumer reference, 1-2% of school/ELT and 1-2% of general consumer sales.

The figures show the net invoiced value of digital sales from companies providing figures, which accounted for c70% of the total physical sales of all UK publishers.