E-book sales revealed for 2012's top 50

E-book sales revealed for 2012's top 50

E-book sales figures supplied by publishers for 2012 show a wide variance in the take-up for e-books when compared to print book sales. Fiction titles are showing a high degree of digital penetration but non-fiction books still sell many more copies in print than they yet do digitally.

For the first time the leading trade publishers have supplied volume e-book sales for titles that feature in The Bookseller's Review of the Year Top 50 chart (see below), with publishers supplying UK e-book volume sales for 43 of the top 50 books. The data shows that the e-book market for traditionally published digital books is much bigger than previously thought, with estimates suggesting that a total number of 65 million e-books were sold in 2012, representing a value of about £200m - at least double what it was in 2011. That would mean the overall book market grew in 2012, despite spending on print books falling £74m.

The e-book data has also been used to update The Bookseller's exclusive e-book chart (also below) created by tracking sales movements across the major e-bookseller websites throughout the year. That chart shows that E L James has replicated her success in the print world, with e-book sales of the trilogy amounting to 3,866,000, compared with print sales of 10,598,000. James actually sold more e-books than the rest of the top 20 combined.

Excluding titles where e-book sales data wasn't given, the average share of book sales in the top 50 that came from digital editions was 16% - but there were huge fluctuations within the data, not least within genre. Just 7% of total sales of the non-fiction titles in the chart came by way of "e", however, the e-book share of cheaper non-fiction titles that are currently available in paperback formats (Call the Midwife, A Street Cat Named Bob, Thinking Fast and Slow), were higher at between 12% and 21%.

The e-book share of adult-audience novels in the Top 50 is significantly higher than non-fiction and children's, with the print/e-book share averages being 74%/26%.

But even within the fiction sector, there are fluctuations. A massive 45% of sales of S J Watson's Before I Go to Sleep and Jonas Jonasson's The Hundred-Year-Old Man came in "e" in 2012, but just 8% of sales of Sue Townsend's The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year were digital.

One standout surprise is the proportion of digital sales young adult titles are now attracting. Both the Suzanne Collins Hunger Games trilogy and Michael Morpurgo's War Horse have recorded digital sales at the higher end of the scale.

The chart also shows the huge impact price can have on e-book sales. Hesperus Press' The Hundred-Year-Old Man enters the chart in 48th place thanks to print sales through Nielsen BookScan of 174,898. However, its e-book sales are almost equivalent thanks to Sony's 20p price promotion that Amazon has been matching.

Of course, if the overall Top 50 chart was ranked by revenue, e-book market share would be significantly smaller given e-book prices are generally much cheaper than print editions. Those publishers who were on the agency model would also have seen higher sales values, albeit based on lower volume sales, which would have pushed their titles further up a revenue-ordered chart. The anomalies suggest that value may actually be a better measure of e-book sales performance than volume.

Based on the e-book volumes of the titles in the top 50 it can be estimated that a total number of 65 million e-books were sold in 2012, representing a value of about £200m. However, these numbers do not include any self-published titles, or the Harry Potter e-books that were released for the first time in e-book format in 2012. It is also likely that they slightly overestimate the entire market, as e-book sales look disproportionately strong for bestsellers.

Top 20 e-books of 2012    
Pos Title Author Publisher
1 Fifty Shades of Grey James, E L Cornerstone
2 Fifty Shades Darker James, E L Cornerstone
3 Fifty Shades Freed James, E L Cornerstone
4 The Hunger Games Collins, Suzanne Scholastic
5 Catching Fire Collins, Suzanne Scholastic
6 Mockingjay Collins, Suzanne Scholastic
7 Bared to You Day, Sylvia Penguin
8 Before I Go to Sleep Watson, S J Transworld
9 Reflected in You Day, Sylvia Penguin
10 Me Before You Moyes, Jojo Penguin
11 The Hundred-Year-Old Man… Jonasson, Jonas Hesperus
12 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Larsson, Stieg Quercus
13 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Moggach, Deborah Vintage
14 The Help Stockett, Kathryn Penguin
15 Call the Midwife Worth, Jennifer Weidenfeld
16 Love… From Both Sides Spalding, Nick Coronet
17 Monday to Friday Man Peterson, Alice Quercus
18 The Expats Pavone, Chris Faber
19 The Lewis Man May, Peter Quercus
20 Dead Man's Grip James, Peter Macmillan

The e-book chart is compiled by The Bookseller using a points system based on chart positions and estimated retailer market shares. Excludes the Harry Potter e-books.

 

OFFICIAL UK TOP 50: BESTSELLERS OF THE YEAR (52 WEEKS TO 29/12/12)    
Pos Title Author Publisher Print Volume e-book Volume  Total (p+e)
1 Fifty Shades of Grey James, E L Cornerstone 4,500,248  1,609,626  6,109,874
2 Fifty Shades Darker James, E L Cornerstone 3,180,787  1,165,628  4,346,415
3 Fifty Shades Freed James, E L Cornerstone 2,918,303  1,092,250  4,010,553
4 The Hunger Games Collins, Suzanne Scholastic 851,066 405,000 1,256,066
5 Jamie's 15-Minute Meals Oliver, Jamie Penguin 778,364 n/a n/a
6 Catching Fire Collins, Suzanne Scholastic 681,707 340,000 1,021,707
7 Bared to You Day, Sylvia Penguin 635,170 302,000 937,170
8 Mockingjay Collins, Suzanne Scholastic 625,802 325,000 950,802
9 Guinness World Records 2013 - Guinness 465,195 7000 472,195
10 The Hairy Dieters The Hairy Bikers Orion 439,741 20,244 459,985
11 The Hobbit Tolkien, J R R HarperCollins 402,753 79,131 481,884
12 The Casual Vacancy Rowling, J K Little, Brown 394,754 59,413 454,167
13 Is it Just Me? Hart, Miranda Hodder & Stoughton 382,807 23964 406,771
14 Before I Go to Sleep Watson, S J Transworld 362,177  286,740 648,917
15 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel Kinney, Jeff Penguin 358,701 n/a n/a
16 A Street Cat Named Bob Bowen, James Hodder & Stoughton 340,497 46836 387,333
17 War Horse Morpurgo, Michael Egmont 339,436 121,652 461,088
18 Call the Midwife Worth, Jennifer Orion 324,798 84,287 409,085
19 The Thread Hislop, Victoria Headline 298,033 79,981 378,014
20 The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year Townsend, Sue Penguin 289,440 26,000 315,440
21 Cheryl: My Story Cole, Cheryl HarperCollins 284,014 32,870 316,884
22 Me Before You Moyes, Jojo Penguin 279,349 207,000 486,349
23 Rod: The Autobiography Stewart, Rod Cornerstone 266,177  19,057 285,234
24 Reflected in You Day, Sylvia Penguin 257,642 215,000 472,642
25 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth Kinney, Jeff Penguin 257,159 n/a n/a
26 A Game of Thrones Martin, George R R HarperCollins 234,182 96,277 330,459
27 Bring Up the Bodies Mantel, Hilary HarperCollins 234,093 63,822 297,915
28 My Time: An Autobiography Wiggins, Bradley Vintage 231,561  7,965 239,526
29 Ratburger Walliams, David HarperCollins 229,021 11,077 240,098
30 The Affair Child, Lee Transworld 228,954  49,335 278,289
31 The Help Stockett, Kathryn Penguin 221,462 116,000 337,462
32 Billionaire Boy Walliams, David HarperCollins 219,199 11,639 230,838
33 The Litigators Grisham, John Hodder & Stoughton 215,059 34,918 249,977
34 Mr Stink Walliams, David HarperCollins 214,563 10,691 225,254
35 The Official Highway Code - TSO 205,947 n/a n/a
36 Fast, Fresh and Easy Food Pascale, Lorraine HarperCollins 200,900 2,695 203,595
37 Nigellissima Lawson, Nigella Vintage 199,291  2,906 202,197
38 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Kinney, Jeff Penguin 199,283 n/a n/a
39 Death Comes to Pemberley James, P D Faber 192,996 41,815 234,811
40 My Animals and Other Family Balding, Clare Penguin 185,819 26,000 211,819
41 A Clash of Kings Martin, George R R HarperCollins 183,646 67,268 250,914
42 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever Kinney, Jeff Penguin 183,386 n/a n/a
43 One Direction: The Official Annual 2013 One Direction HarperCollins 181,663 636 182,299
44 Gangsta Granny Walliams, David HarperCollins 180,348 20,859 201,207
45 Kill Alex Cross Patterson, James Cornerstone 177,616  29,048 206,664
46 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Moggach, Deborah Vintage 176,292  123,525 299,817
47 The Sense of an Ending Barnes, Julian Vintage 175,878  45,190 221,068
48 The Hundred-Year-Old Man… Jonasson, Jonas Hesperus 175,531 145,000 320,531
49 The Beano Annual 2013 - D C Thomson 174,894 n/a n/a
50 Thinking, Fast and Slow Kahneman, Daniel Penguin 173,542 25,000 198,542

The chart is ordered by print book sales volume sourced from Nielsen BookScan. All e-book numbers were supplied by the publishers (UK, volume). The Guinness World Record number excludes 1,000 paid-for downloads of the 10 individual chapters and 142,000 downloads of the free bonus chapter; the e-book figures for The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockinjay are estimated; e-book versions of Jamie’s 15-minute Meals and The Beano Annual 2013 do not exist; Wimpy Kid e-books were only published at the end of the year; the e-book figure for The Hundred Year-Old Man is a full year estimate based on sales up to the end of November.