Dan Brown's hotly anticipated Inferno (Bantam Press) has become one of the fastest-selling books since official sales records began, selling 228,961 copies at UK booksellers in its first five days on release, and topping the Official UK Top 50.
Nielsen BookScan data reveals just shy of 10p in every pound spent on a printed book in the UK last week went towards a copy of the conspiracy thriller, Brown's fourth starring Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, which took a grand total of £2.2m through bookshop tills. The £20 hardback sold at an average price of £9.80 after retailers slashed 51% off its cover price in promotional discounting.
Inferno's first-week sale is second only to Brown's The Lost Symbol (Bantam Press) as the biggest opening-week sale from a hardback novel for adult audiences since official sales records began in 1998. Its sale was significantly higher than J K Rowling's The Casual Vacancy (Little, Brown), which sold 125,000 copies in its first week on sale last year, but is less than half the figure The Lost Symbol achieved in its first week on
release (551,000)—a book that went on to sell 1.4m copies in hardback and has sold 2.2m copies across all print editions to date.
Part of the reason behind Inferno's comparatively lower print sales is undoubtedly due to some loss to a digital books sector which was in its infancy in 2009 when The Lost Symbol was released. Transworld m.d. Larry Finlay told The Bookseller e-book sales of Inferno were "huge, better than anything we have ever had by a quantum leap". But Transworld declined to reveal the e-book sales number for the first week.
The Lost Symbol was also discounted more heavily by retailers (by 57%) in its first week on release, while The Lost Symbol's sales may also have benefitted from its September release date—May is traditionally a quiet period for the trade in sales terms and last year was 25% lower in value terms than September.
Nonetheless, Inferno jumps straight into 11th position in a list of the bestselling hardback adult novels since records began in 1998—one place behind Martina Cole's Close (Headline), and one ahead of Hilary Mantel's Man Booker winner, Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate).
In total, £23.3m was spent at UK booksellers in the seven days to 18th May—up 15.4% (£3.1m) on the previous week and up 4.9% (£1.1m) on the comparative week last year—a week when E L James' Fifty Shades of Grey (Arrow) topped the Official UK Top 50 with a 62,950 seven-day sale.