'E' market nears £300m

'E' market nears £300m

E-book sales at the top trade publishers doubled in 2012, meaning that the UK e-book market grew to £250m, putting the overall book market back in the black after a transitional 12 months for the trade.

Last week, for the first time, The Bookseller published e-book volume numbers for the biggest-selling titles of the year, suggesting that 65 million e-books had been sold, representing a value of £200m.

This week six of the largest trade publishers supplied their e-book volume numbers—including Random House (volume sales of 11.2 million), Hachette (unit sales of 8.7 million), HarperCollins (7.5 million), Pan Macmillan (4.5 million) and Simon & Schuster (1.4 million). A number, including Hachette and S&S, also supplied value numbers, with Hachette recording e-book sales over the year of £31.5m (up 102%), and Simon & Schuster sales of £5m (up 120%).

The figures, along with aggregate numbers supplied by other publishers, mean that it is possible to estimate the wider market for e-books at closer to £235m, with the average invoiced value of each unit sold at £3.65.

However, the value of the market at consumer prices would be higher depending on discounts applied by e-booksellers, and the impact of VAT. Excluding tax, estimates suggest the value of the market is around £250m— higher still if self-published titles are included (thought to be 15% of the market, or 10 million units), along with imports from overseas publishers and the Harry Potter e-books.

It means the total value of the book market was £1.9bn in 2012, having grown 2% by value and 9% by volume. Some publishers The Bookseller spoke to believe the e-book market may even have approached £300m in 2012 when all factors are taken into consideration, meaning growth levels could have been even higher. The figures also do not include digital sales outside of e-books, meaning some publishers may also be profiting from sales of apps and audio downloads.

The numbers supplied by publishers also show the extraordinary impact of 20p bestsellers, with Pan Macmillan’s market share based on its volume sales estimated at 7%—more than double its share of the print market, with Pan Mac’s e-book volume sales having grown by “more than 200%”. Its growth outpaced many rival publishers, with its top 10 e-books (many of which were included in Sony’s 20p promotions) in 2012 accounting for sales of over one million units. Digital sales represented approximately 30% of its UK trade sales by volume and value, a large increase from the 10% recorded in the previous year.

The strong growth in e-book sales, particularly of fiction titles, meant many trade publishers will have clawed back any sales lost through the print-based Nielsen BookScan universe, with the average year-on-year growth of unit sales at 109%. It also suggests that a number of publishers are outperforming the wider market, either because they have more digital titles, or because digital sales tend to coalesce around bestsellers.

Responding to the numbers published exclusively in The Bookseller, Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said: “The significant growth in the e-book market shows that e-reading is clearly not destined to remain a minority sport, rather, it will take an increasingly important place in the market. While digital sales are growing by comparison to physical sales, nothing points towards a catastrophic cannibalisation of one format by the other, but rather it points to a diversification of the reading audience.”

Pos Publisher 2011 Volume 2012 Volume Growth
1 Random House 4,122,480 11,160,000 171%
2 Hachette 4,769,357 8,659,851 81%
3 Penguin N/A 5,500,000 N/A
4 HarperCollins 3,354,790 7,501,484 124%
5 Pan Macmillan 2,200,000 4,500,000 >200%
6 Simon & Schuster 562,000 1,370,000 144%
  Totals - 38,391,276 108.5%
  Estimated Trade Market 65,000,000  
  *Key: Estimated figures in bold