E-book sales in the four weeks to 9th June declined 9% over the previous four-week period, and 26% over the same period last year, according to Nielsen BookData’s latest digital report, Understanding the E-book Consumer. The drop-off was not only because of the huge sales of Fifty Shades of Grey in 2012; there was also a comparative fall in sales of children’s titles and non-fiction.
The share of the total market occupied by e-books is up only 1% on the same period last year, to 19%. In total, volume sales of e-books were down 25.7% year on year, to three million, with value sales down a shallower 12.2% year on year, to £10m. The latter is attributed to a sharp increase (+52p) in the average selling prices of e-books in the period (to around £3.50).
Despite the poor figures, in 2013 as a whole the e-book market is still ahead of 2012 levels. In the 24-week period ending 9th June, £66.2m was spent on 22 million e-books in the UK—up 9% (£5.4m) and 11.2% (2.2 million books) year on year respectively. However, over the comparative period in 2012, e-book sales were up a massive 200% (13.2m) on 2011’s figures in volume terms, and up 155.6% (£37m) on 2011 in value terms.
The report, based on the Kantar Worldpanel of consumers, estimated that the non-fiction e-book sector would be worth £53.4m in 2013—up 30.3% year on year—an increase by 24.8% year on year in 2014, to £66.6m. In comparison, the print non-fiction book sector is expected to decline by 4.6% this year, but increase marginally (+0.6%) in 2014.
Based on current trends, e-books will account for 13.1% of all non-fiction sales in 2014 in volume terms, but just 6.5% in value terms due to the lower average selling prices of e-books.
Nevertheless, Nielsen expects that in 2014 59.7% of all e-book revenue is expected to come from fiction titles, with non-fiction accounting for 29.5% and children’s accounting for 10.8%.