Hachette UK's e-book sales stand at over 25% of trade sales in 2013 so far, with e-books accounting for over 30% of fiction sales, and for some authors and genres of fiction, over 50%, c.e.o. Tim Hely Hutchinson has revealed. Meanwhile the combined total of print books sold by online booksellers and e-books now accounts for almost half of all Hachette's UK trade sales, he said.
Hely Hutchinson gave the figures in his annual letter to authors, sent this week.
He said: "We estimate that sales of e-books did compensate for the decline in sales of print, at least before inflation in 2012, partly because of the phenomenal sales of the Fifty Shades trilogy." But he warned: "Over the longer term, I am afraid the picture is one of slow decline – in real terms adjusted for inflation – in combined e-book and print value sales, although current sales are holding steady."
The Hachette UK chief also said that the change in agency agreements on e-book sales, following the settlement with the European Commission, had occurred "without any particular problems", with the publisher set to review its policies at the end of the two-year period stipulated by the EC.
He told authors: "Your publisher has the best IT and digital resources of any publishing company anywhere, and we will continue to invest heavily in the evolution of digital publishing so that we always have the most effective systems to support the digital distribution of our increasingly advanced content across the world." Restating a 2012 digital sales figure of £50m, he declared Hachette "easily the most consistently successful digital publisher in Britain."
Giving a comprehensive overview of Hachette UK's annual achievements and its offering to authors, Hely Hutchinson told them that the publisher supports all book retailers, bricks and mortar and online, adding: "Collectively, we have a carefully built structure designed to ensure we are big enough as a group to negotiate successfully with all booksellers on fair terms, and small enough within the publishing companies to provide a very personal service for readers, customers and authors."
In a section of the letter delineated as "Hot Topics", Hely Hutchinson told authors that Hachette UK was "awaiting…with interest" the outcome of the pilot schemes into library e-lending, following publication of the Sieghart Review in April. "The Society of Authors has recently expressed strong reservations on this subject, worrying that authors could receive on small royalty payment in exchange for their work being widely available free of charge," he noted. "We are sympathetic to this argument and feel that our present policy of allowing no lending of e-books is unlikely to change until and unless the Government is willing to extend PLR to e-books or help in other ways."
He also said that over the summer Hachette UK would be introducing a "comprehensive and world-class" anti-piracy system from MarkMonitor to automate the search for infringements, in co-ordination with its colleagues in France, Spain and the US.