January book spend falls as digital bites

Printed book sales fell 12% year on year in January, with spending falling to its lowest point since 2003. According to Nielsen BookScan data, sales in the four weeks to 28th January 2012 totalled £95.3m, down £13.3m on the comparative period last year.

Volume sales fell 16% (2.3m units) year on year over the period, with average selling prices rising marginally, by 4% (31 pence), to £7.63.

Despite a slight rise in sales of hardback novels, overall spending on fiction was down 26% against 2011 due to a 31% drop in spending on paperback fiction—evidence of popularity of digital books in the immediate post-Christmas period.

Non-fiction book sales were down 15% over the four-week period, but the children's market continues to show some resistance to the digital migration, with sales down just 4% year on year. In fact, the three bestselling writers in the month of January were all children's authors: Michael Morpurgo (with sales totalling £0.8m), Jeff Kinney and Julia Donaldson (both £0.6m).

Helped by its big-screen adaptation at the hands of Steven Spielberg, Morpurgo’s War Horse (Egmont) was the bestselling book in the month of January selling 109,000 copies across all print editions. Sales of the book were up 56% month on month in January and up 1,500% on January 2011. Since records began, just two other children’s authors have seen one of their books sell more than 100,000 copies in the month of January: Stephenie Meyer and J K Rowling.

S J Watson's Before I Go to Sleep (Black Swan) was the second bestselling book in the month. The book, Watson's début, sold 97,500 copies in January, helped by its Richard and Judy Spring Book Club selection. Transworld stablemate Joanna Trollope's Daughters-in-law (also Black Swan), was the third bestselling book in January, selling 60,800 copies across all print editions.

January is traditionally the time of year for New Year New You promotions, but BookScan reports that sales through its "Personal Development" product class, where many a New Year New You title can be found, were down by a quarter year on year in 2012.

According to BookScan, Paul McKenna's I Can Make You Smarter (Bantam Press) was overwhelmingly the bestselling book in the sector, selling 20,129 copies. However, it was one of only 25 "Personal Development" books to sell more than 1,000 copies in the month of January—down from 39 in January last year.