The British high street saw a 4% rise in book volume purchases through physical stores last year, while online sales flatlined. However, online retailers continued to grow their market share of the print market with a 1% rise to 32% of volume purchases in 2016.
These were the findings of Nielsen's Books & Consumer annual survey revealed by Steve Bohme, UK research director at Nielsen Book, at The London Book Fair’s Quantum Conference today (13th March).
In terms of volume, online purchases remained the same as last year due to the flatlining in e-book buying, whereas the high street saw a rise of 4%. Both online and store purchases were up in terms of value, with sales through online channels up 5% to £1169m and sales through stores up 7% to £1130m in 2016.
Bohme's findings also confirmed that purchases of e-books are in decline, with consumers buying 4% fewer in 2016 - a trend which coincides with a slowing in the growth of device ownership and the increasing of e-book prices. In addition, multi-function devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, overtook dedicated e-reading devices as the most commonly used for e-reading, with a 48%-44% split respectively.
The results of the survey also revealed that UK consumers spent 6% more on books in 2016 than in the previous year, with young generations of consumers fuelling the growth.
Bohme discussed the channel shares for print books, revealing that bookshops have stayed steady on 42%, while the share of e-tailers increased by 1% to 32% volume. In terms of value, bookshops had a 45% share in 2016, down slightly from 2015 when this was 46%. E-tailers have stayed stead on 34%.
The fastest growing categories were non-fiction (+5%) and children’s print books (+3%) with genres such as self-help, humour, cookery, history and crime all reporting growth. In contrast, biographies, popular fiction and literary fiction reported consecutive year decreases in purchases.
Bohme told delegates that the industry would be “buoyed” by the “strong” results and overall growth.
“This year we’ve seen a range of bestsellers from a diverse selection of genres come to the fore – from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Sphere) to Ladybird Books for Adults and Enid Blyton parodies and social media sensation Joe Wicks’ healthy cookbooks – and these key titles and series have contributed heavily towards this upward trajectory”, he said. “It’s refreshing to see how books generally, and print books in particular, are still appealing to younger consumers, both male and female, despite so many other forms of entertainment and information competing for their attention.”
Jacks Thomas, director of The London Book Fair, added: “Much has been said in recent years about e-reading cannibalising the sales of print books, so it is very interesting to see how this trend has reversed and how print is now very much back on the up."
She continued: "We live in a world where variety is everything and book buyers want to have the luxury of choice - to have access to titles in paperback, hardback, e-book or audiobook format - according to their lifestyle and preference. We are delighted to be kicking off The London Book Fair, a major international event in the annual publishing calendar, on such a positive note and I’m sure the book industry and general public will be pleased to hear that the our beloved books are very much alive and kicking.”