Digital sales 'could be 15%' by year's end

Digital sales 'could be 15%' by year's end

Independent publishers are predicting that e-book sales may make up as much as 15% of their total sales by the end of 2011, as FutureBook's Digital Census reveals that a quarter of UK publishers now have e-book sales which account for more than 10% of their total sales.

Several indies are reporting that they expect e-book sales to make up between 8% and 15% of their total sales by the end of the year, and forecast "significantly more growth" next year, as new devices such as the Kindle Fire look set to spark more e-book sales of non-fiction.

According to FutureBook's Digital Census—which had 500 responses from publishers—one-quarter of UK publishers now record e-book sales greater than 10%, compared with just 16% of publishers in 2010.

Simon Blacklock, head of sales at Faber Factory, which provides digital services for more than 70 independents, said a current estimate of 8%–10% of total sales for narrative non-fiction and fiction publishers would be broadly correct. He estimated that by the end of 2012, Faber Factory publishers would have digital sales accounting for 15% of their total sales. He put the average figure for FF publishers at Christmas last year at 1%.

However, he stressed e-book sales varied depending on the area of content: "Fiction has been the route to market [for the bulk of digital sales], but non-fiction is growing all the time . . . While there has been a time-lag, as devices and technology improve, the ability to make e-books available also increases."

Canongate marketing manager Sian Gibson said its e-book sales were around 10% of overall sales at the moment, up from about 3% this time last year. She said: "It's a really exciting quarter coming up—sales might reach between 10%–15% even by the end of 2011."  

Constable & Robinson sales and marketing director Martin Palmer estimated e-books will make up around 8% of its total sales by the end of the year, forecasting "significantly more growth in 2012". He claimed genre fiction made up the majority of its e-book sales, though there were "substantial increases" in sales of its Rightway non-fiction series.

Helen Kogan, m.d. of business specialist Kogan Page, predicted its total digital revenue should reach about 12% of turnover by the end of June 2012, with non-fiction e-book sales beginning to grow, "albeit at a slower rate".

Indies are also predicting that Amazon's Kindle Fire device will boost sales of e-books. Aurum Press senior commissioning editor and digital publisher Robin Harvie said its colour screen will bring illustrations—integral to a lot of non-fiction—"into play in a big way".