July books spending hits seven year low

July books spending hits seven year low

Spending on physical books in July slumped to its lowest level in seven years as e-books continue to encroach onto traditional bookseller territory.

According to Nielsen BookScan data, £111.5m was spent on printed books in the four weeks to 30th July - up 6% (£6m) month-on-month, but down 8% (£9.7m) on July last year. Volume sales over the four-week period were down 9% (1.6m) year-on-year, to 15.8m, while average selling prices rose 1% (eight pence) to £7.05.

With novels dominating the Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, and Waterstone's e-book charts, sales of physical novels have slumped at UK booksellers. According to BookScan's Top 5,000 bestseller list for the period, spending on novels was down 16% year-on-year. This is in part due to the fact the mass-market edition of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (Corgi) hit the shelves in July last year and sold 260,000 copies in just two weeks. However, stripping out this uniquely huge-seller out from the data would still reveal a fiction market down 13% year-on-year. Sales of hardback novels through BookScan's Top 5,000 bestseller list were down 5% year-on-year, with paperback novels down 17%.

Dawn French's A Tiny Bit Marvellous (Penguin) was comfortably the bestselling book of the month, selling 120,948 copies. However, it was one of only 11 to sell more than 50,000 copies at UK booksellers, compared to 17 over the comparative period last year. George R R Martin's A Dance with Dragons (HarperVoyager) was the bestselling hardback novel, selling 41,014 copies, nearly twice as much as the next bestseller, Karin Slaughter's Fallen (Century, 21,913 copies).

Despite the popularity of Jeff Kinney's six Diary of a Wimpy Kid novels, which were the six most-purchased children's books over the four-week period, overall sales of children's books through the Top 5,000 chart were down 5% year-on-year, due largely to the sharp decline in sales of dark romance literature. Thirteen dark romance novels sold more than 10,000 copies at UK booksellers in July last year, compared to just three this year. Stephenie Meyer's A Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (Atom) was the bestselling children's book in July 2010, selling 66,417 copies in hardback. Meyer's bestseller in July 2011, Breaking Dawn (Atom), sold just a tenth of that figure.

Sales of non-fiction books, however, grew in July with sales through the Top 5,000 up 9% year-on-year. The "Food & Drink" sector enjoyed solid growth (by 45%) thanks to the success of Rick Stein's Spain (BBC), Pierre Dukan's The Dukan Diet Recipe Book (Hodder), and Simon Hopkinson's The Good Cook (BBC), while sales of biographies and memoirs were up 9% year-on-year.

George R R Martin was the most valuable author to booksellers in the month of July, scoring sales of £1.5m through the tills. New children's laureate Julia Donaldson was the second most valuable author with sales of £840,000. It means that Donaldson becomes only the fourth children's writer to surpass the £50m sales mark since Nielsen BookScan records began in 1998. The three ahead of her being J K Rowling (£233m), Jacqueline Wilson (£77m), and Stephenie Meyer (£54m).

July Top 10
Dawn French's A Tiny Bit Marvellous (Penguin) 120,948
Kathy Reichs' Spider Bones (Arrow) 95,373
Lesley Pearse's Belle (Penguin) 87,659
Jo Nesbø's The Leopard (Vintage) 81,347
Sophie Kinsella's Mini Shopaholic (Black Swan) 66,906
Michael Connelly's The Reversal (Orion) 65,681
Karin Slaughter's Broken (Arrow) 64,223
Lynda La Plante's Blind Fury (Simon & Schuster) 57,599
Jodi Picoult's Harvesting the Heart (Hodder) 54,786
Linwood Barclay's Never Look Away (Orion) 53,392