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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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.