Trade calls for UK-specific e-book chart

A lack of e-book retailer involvement is slowing the launch of a UK e-book chart despite an increasing clamour for one from publishers.

Nielsen is able to provide a global chart, and the year-to-date chart (to end of May) sees Stephenie Meyer host six spots including the top two with Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. Nielsen also released a UK e-book chart for the first quarter.

But publishers have called for more detailed information.

Fionnuala Duggan, digital director for the Random House Group, said: “As the market gets bigger there is a need for independent market statistics to see which areas and which titles are doing well.”

Duggan said she had not seen a marked difference between the types of e-books selling well compared to physical books, with Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol Random House’s bestselling e-book.

Tim Cooper, director of direct and digital marketing at Harlequin Mills & Boon, said year-to-date HMB’s e-book sales had more than doubled compared to last year.

“E-books are becoming an ever-important part of the publishing industry, so I see no reason why there shouldn’t be a regular e-book chart. The chart would also help give this new marketplace scale . . .

"A separate e-book chart is fine, but in time it would probably be more interesting to see an integrated chart, with the focus on which books are selling best, rather than just which format people are buying.”

Jason Craig, group sales director for Penguin UK, said a UK chart would be “extremely welcome” but would require a lot of work and effort to make it a useful resource. He added: “It’s not an easy thing to pull together.”

George Walkley, head of digital at Hachette, agreed with Duggan's analysis. “Our experience has been that demand for e-books maps very closely to demand in other formats—besides Stephenie Meyer, our bestsellers include Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell, Martina Cole and Stephen King,” he explained. Year-to-date, Hachette e-book sales were more than five times higher than for the comparable ­period last year, he claimed.

Julie Meynink, business development director at Nielsen BookScan, said the group was looking to respond to publishers' demand for more information. “BookScan is currently building a global e-book panel and we are already collecting and collating e-book sales from a number of key retailers. However, we need and welcome more panel participants so that we can build a robust market measure," she said.

“We are unable to provide a set launch date as it will depend on how fast e-book retailers join the BookScan e-book panel.”

Meynink was unable to disclose which retailers were currently involved in the panel. She added Nielsen was using the charts to “generate interest rather than as an ongoing product”.

But in the US, Bowker’s PubTrack consumer data shows that year-on-year e-book sales in the US have more than doubled in the first quarter.

Across all genres digital/e-books make up 2.5% of the books sold in the first quarter of 2010, compared to 1.2% in 2009. Adult fiction e-books have seen an even greater growth, up from 1.4% of sales in the first quarter of 2009, to 3.5% in the same period in 2010.