Book sales slump as temperatures tumble

Book sales slump as temperatures tumble

Sales of printed books plummeted with the mercury last week, with data from book sales monitors Nielsen BookScan revealing that volume sales of books fell to their lowest level in more than 10 years.

In total, £20.7m was spent on physical books in the seven days to 19th January, down 11.1% (£2.6m) on the previous week, with volume sales falling 12.3% to 2.7m—the smallest seven-day total since the week ending 22nd June 2002.

Sales at high street booksellers appeared particularly poor. BookScan's General Retail Market panel of booksellers, which offers a good indicator of high street bookshop performance, reported sales slumped 17.5% in revenue terms week on week, to £9.3m, with volume sales falling 18.5%, to 1.4m.

With all but essential trips out of the house advisable due to the inclement weather, it is perhaps no surprise to discover that the sector of the market that coped best was the genre most popular with supermarkets — paperback fiction. According to BookScan top 5,000 bestseller data, paperback fiction sales fell down 8% week on week in value terms — a much shallower decline than hardback fiction (-43%), hardback non-fiction (-22%), paperback non-fiction (-11%) and the children's sector (hardbacks down 19%, paperbacks down 13%).

In a tough week for the trade, the Hairy Bikers' The Hairy Dieters (Weidenfeld) proved once again the bestselling book overall. Despite a 28% fall in sales week-on-week, to 22,270 copies sold, it tops the Official UK Top 50 for a third consecutive week and its fourth in total. Orion stablemate Gillian Flynn's thriller, Gone Girl (Phoenix), climbs five places into second position week-on-week. Sales of the novel jumped 16% on the previous week courtesy of its time under the Richard and Judy/W H Smith 2013 Spring Book Club spotlight, meaning publisher Orion scores double paperback number ones this week.

The last publisher to score number ones in both the Mass-market Fiction and Paperback Non-fiction bestseller lists was Hodder in September 2011—with David Nicholls' One Day and Pierre Dukan's The Dukan Diet. Publisher Orion has achieved the feat before - most recently in August 2009 when Linwood Barclay's Too Close to Home proved the bestselling paperback novel in a week when Julie Walters' memoir That's Another Story proved the bestselling paperback non-fiction book.

Stuart MacBride’s eighth Logan McRae thriller, Close to the Bone (HarperCollins), was the bestselling hardback novel of the week, storming straight to the summit of this week's Original Fiction bestseller list on part-week sales alone. It scores the Scot his third Original Fiction number one in a row. The previous thriller in the series, Shatter the Bones, sold 25,000 copies in hardback and enjoyed a small sales boost last week—by 1% week on week.

Following their Christmas peaks, sales of hardback non-fiction titles are tumbling in the UK—sales through BookScan’s top 5,000 bestseller list last week were down 93% on Christmas week. In a quiet market, Jamie Oliver remains the bestseller in the sector overall. Jamie’s 15-minute Meals (Michael Joseph) has now spent 13 consecutive weeks at number one in the Hardback Non-fiction chart—the longest unbroken stint since his 30-minute Meals enjoyed a 32-week unbroken run at number one between October 2010 and May 2011.