Half-year review 2011: an overview

Half-year review 2011: an overview

A royal wedding, an Arab Spring and the death of Osama bin Laden; it has been a momentous first six months of 2011 across the world stage. No less so for the UK book trade: there has been the inaugural World Book Night, the sale of Waterstone's and the demise of British Bookshops, to name just a few events.

There is a continuity of sorts in the books market, however unwanted. At the halfway point for the fourth year running, (print) sales through Nielsen BookScan's Total Consumer Market have declined. For the first 26 weeks of 2011, the market has dropped 3% in value (or £22.2m) on the same period last year to £677.4m, the lowest half-year total since 2005. Volume has dropped even more precipitously: 93.5 million units have been shifted thus far in 2011, a 5% slide from the previous year.

We should underline the caveat that these are TCM, print-only figures, and certainly not publishers' bottom lines. The received wisdom is that digital accounts for about 6%–8% of the British market at the moment. Yet, until Nielsen gets all the e-book players on side—and the word is that they are almost there—there is uncertainty on the true size of the digital market. Is that 6%–8% in value, volume or both? We shall undoubtedly see in a matter of months.

Record breaking
Still, there are reasons for some publishers to be cheerful, a few even ecstatic. Penguin, Pan Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Usborne have all had their best ever first-half year through the TCM since records began (up 11%, 14%, 11% and 28% respectively against 2010). Bloomsbury, up a very healthy 8%, is the only other top 10 publisher with positive growth.

It has been a difficult first six months for Hachette. The top dog has seen its value decline by 16% and market share fall by 2.1 percentage points, with all of its divisions dipping (barring the nascent Hachette Ireland). Random House has declined by the barest of margins to £80.5m from £80.7m, with the RH group down 2%, and Transworld up 4%.
HarperCollins, though down 2%, actually gained in market share. At some level this is a victory, as HC has had three straight years of double-digit drops in TCM value. A pyrrhic victory, perhaps; HC's £46.3m is its worst ever first six- month total since records began.
Quercus has three books in the Top 50, the only indie to have more than one. But this time last year those three books—Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy—were at numbers one to three, with an additional The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo film tie-in at number 13. Larsson's decline (though he still has shifted £3m through the TCM this year) had led to a 39% drop in Quercus' TCM revenue, or £3.8m, roughly the value the Independent Alliance as a whole has dropped (for more on publishers see pages 20–21).

Top of the table
Penguin has ruled the charts in 2011, notching up 44 titles which have entered the Official Top 50 and 53 number ones across the nine weekly charts run in The Bookseller. However, the way the TCM data is collected for this is slightly harsh on Random House. All of the RH divisions combine for 48 number ones; add Transworld's 34 to that, and the entire group has 82. The Hachette group's combined number ones total is 31. 
Jamie Oliver's Jamie's 30-Minute Meals started off 2011 as it ended 2010: on top. The biggest selling hardback non-fiction title since records began only ended its run as the Hardback Non-Fiction number one in May after an astonishing 32-week stay. The previous longest HB NF number one streak was 15 weeks by Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bantam) in 2003.

The Orange and Man Booker prizes bridesmaid Emma Donoghue continues to roll along. Room  is the bestselling fiction title of the year, aided by the shortlists and an appearance on January's Richard & Judy Spring Book Club. Room has sold over £2.6m in all editions since being published last year.

Apart from Larsson, the only author to have the same book on both the 2010 and 2011 first half Top 50 is David Nicholls. Unlike Larsson, his One Day has improved on its 2010 half-year position, rising from 11th to third.

Half-year review 2011: publisher performance

Half-year review 2011:writers/genres