News

E-book sales at Hachette UK now 5% and catching US

E-book sales at Hachette UK quadrupled in the first quarter of 2011 and are more than 5% of HUK’s trade sales, the company revealed today (3rd May), adding that it was beginning to catch up with the US, where e-books now account for 22% of sales. It projected that e-books could account for up to 10% of revenues in the UK in 2011.

The numbers were revealed as parent company Lagardere released its first quarter results, which showed publishing sales down close to 10% as the company continued to suffer from comparisons with robust sales of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series a year earlier.

In the three months to end March 2011 revenues amounted to €390m (£349.5m) down 9.8% as reported and down 10.4% like-for-like. However, e-book sales momentum "was considerable", up 88% compared to quarter one 2010, and now accounting for 22% of revenue in the US and 5% in the UK. "This development is the result of very brisk sales of e-book readers at the end of the year," the company noted.

Hachette UK said that the e-book market in the UK, until recently estimated to be about two years behind the market in the US, was "growing so fast that it now does not lag that far behind the US".

In the UK Hachette highlighted debuts The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman and three fantasy titles published by Gollancz: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.

A number of paperbacks sold "very strongly" including Maggie O’Farrell’s Costa-winning novel The Hand That First Held Mine and Daisy Goodwin’s My Last Duchess (Headline), Harlan Coben’s Caught (Orion), Val McDermid’s Trick of the Dark (Sphere) and David Nicholls’ perennial bestseller One Day (Hodder).

It said its bestselling e-books over the quarter were Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, One Day by David Nicholls, and Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

It was a "good quarter" for HUK's children’s publishing with John Grisham’s first Theodore Boone novel for Hodder an instant bestseller and The House of Night (Atom) and Vampire Diaries (Hodder Children’s Books) series continuing to sell strongly in the period.

It said it expected strong sales in the second quarter of 2011 to come from Jean Auel's Land of Painted Caves (Hodder) and Jeffery’s Deaver’s James Bond novel, Carte Blanche (Hodder), among others.

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So the big question is when will digital sales be 20%+[of the general domestic book market].? Anybody want a bet , I say 25% by end 2013?. When we reach that figure it will have a massive effect on retail , particularly a major stockholding chain, a little less so- indies and supermarkets .

Last year I would have said it was 2015 before the 25% ebook figure would have been reached. Now I would put it end of 2012 beginning quarter of 2013 - less than 24 months away.
I am wondering at what point the crucial bottom line figure for the production, storing and distribution of paper books becomes unviable? Surely some publishers are now making the calculations and coming to the conclusion that forking out "six figure sums" for titles that in no measure can earn back is a mug's game? Or is everyone walking blindfold to the edge of the cliff?

Julian, what sort of drop in physical book sales do you think the supermarkets will tolerate before they start to reverse out of the category? Most of the regular trade titles (as opposed to value publishing) they sell are narrative popular fiction/biography etc - the core of the Hachette business, for instance.
Supermarkets are no more committed to books than they are to paddling pools or cushions. If the market falls away, they will (a) want even better terms from the publishers so they can push prices lower, then (b) start reducing their commitment and planning an exit.
Of course, if the bookshops close first they'll be able to hang in there longer - by comparison, a supermarket or HMV is about the only physical place you can buy a CD nowadays, with the other chains extinct and WHS committed to exiting the music sector.
I'll agree with you on 20%+ by 2013, I think that's highly likely. We haven't had the first Kindle UK summer holidays yet.

I think the general point about the growth in e book sales is right. However, I think it will have more of an effect on the heavier book buyers and less on the light / occasional. I'm not sure someone who only reads when on holiday will invest over £100's in a reader or be sufficiently planned that they just don't pick something up at the airport. Based on this it will be the stock holding book stores who suffer the most and the supermarkets / travel shops the least. The HMV comparison is interesting, it now appears that the big labels want to do a deal to preserve a stock holding chain as over 75% of range sales are through HMV. I wonder what proportion of range is sold through Waterstone's - Publishers may not be worried about the loss of Bookstores for front list sales but I am sure hey will have much bigger concerns about range.

I agree with you Philip . If book sales become uninteresting for supermarkets they will dump them .However, there is a big under recorded sale of physical[2nd hand] books through charity shops , markets, etc and I have always linked part of the supermarket trade to these punters .This end of the market seems in part untouched by E books at this time . I know charity shops sales are growing.

I am interest in books by the author:-NICHOLAS EVERARD which i can
read on kindle if it can be arranged.

Greatfully Yours

Valerie Darby

So the big question is when will digital sales be 20%+[of the general domestic book market].? Anybody want a bet , I say 25% by end 2013?. When we reach that figure it will have a massive effect on retail , particularly a major stockholding chain, a little less so- indies and supermarkets .

Last year I would have said it was 2015 before the 25% ebook figure would have been reached. Now I would put it end of 2012 beginning quarter of 2013 - less than 24 months away.
I am wondering at what point the crucial bottom line figure for the production, storing and distribution of paper books becomes unviable? Surely some publishers are now making the calculations and coming to the conclusion that forking out "six figure sums" for titles that in no measure can earn back is a mug's game? Or is everyone walking blindfold to the edge of the cliff?

Julian, what sort of drop in physical book sales do you think the supermarkets will tolerate before they start to reverse out of the category? Most of the regular trade titles (as opposed to value publishing) they sell are narrative popular fiction/biography etc - the core of the Hachette business, for instance.
Supermarkets are no more committed to books than they are to paddling pools or cushions. If the market falls away, they will (a) want even better terms from the publishers so they can push prices lower, then (b) start reducing their commitment and planning an exit.
Of course, if the bookshops close first they'll be able to hang in there longer - by comparison, a supermarket or HMV is about the only physical place you can buy a CD nowadays, with the other chains extinct and WHS committed to exiting the music sector.
I'll agree with you on 20%+ by 2013, I think that's highly likely. We haven't had the first Kindle UK summer holidays yet.

I think the general point about the growth in e book sales is right. However, I think it will have more of an effect on the heavier book buyers and less on the light / occasional. I'm not sure someone who only reads when on holiday will invest over £100's in a reader or be sufficiently planned that they just don't pick something up at the airport. Based on this it will be the stock holding book stores who suffer the most and the supermarkets / travel shops the least. The HMV comparison is interesting, it now appears that the big labels want to do a deal to preserve a stock holding chain as over 75% of range sales are through HMV. I wonder what proportion of range is sold through Waterstone's - Publishers may not be worried about the loss of Bookstores for front list sales but I am sure hey will have much bigger concerns about range.

I agree with you Philip . If book sales become uninteresting for supermarkets they will dump them .However, there is a big under recorded sale of physical[2nd hand] books through charity shops , markets, etc and I have always linked part of the supermarket trade to these punters .This end of the market seems in part untouched by E books at this time . I know charity shops sales are growing.

I am interest in books by the author:-NICHOLAS EVERARD which i can
read on kindle if it can be arranged.

Greatfully Yours

Valerie Darby