Physical book sales slump 4% month-on-month

Spending on printed books slumped 4% in August, with sales slumping to a seven-year low for the month, according to Nielsen BookScan data.

A total of £107.5m was spent on physical books at UK booksellers in the four weeks to 27th August, down 4% (£4m) on July and down 8%, (£9.6m) year-on-year. Spending was down 12% (£13.9m) on 2007's peak of £121.4m.

Volume sales for the month totalled 15.2m—down 4% (0.6m) on July and down 9% (1.5m) on 2010. At £7.07, average selling prices were up 1% (seven pence) year-on-year and up two pence on July.

As was the case in July, when sales in revenue terms slumped 8% year-on-year, fiction is struggling in what has been dubbed the "Kindle Summer". According to BookScan Top 5,000 data, spending on novels was down 15% year-on-year with the Science Fiction and Fantasy sector one of few to see growth year-on-year, thanks to the huge popularity of George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels.

Although the number of novels that sold 10,000 copies or more was similar to 2010 levels (97 in 2011 compared to 92 in 2010), BookScan data suggests mid-list sales are feeling the squeeze, with only 697 books selling 1,000 or more in August, down from 798 last year.

Spending on children's books in August was flat in comparison to 2010, with growth in the non-fiction and pre-school market offsetting the decline in young adult fiction caused by the slump in popularity of dark romance novels.

Non-fiction sales through BookScan's Top 5,000 chart were slightly ahead of last year, by 3%, with food and drink, biographies and memoirs and the fitness sector all enjoying significant gains on 2010.

Recent retail channel data from BookScan suggests that supermarkets, traditionally strong sellers of novels, have suffered this summer. Volume sales within BookScan's "Supermarket and Mixed Multiples" channel, which includes the likes of Tesco, Asda, and Sainsburys, were down 12% year-on-year in the four weeks to 13th August period. In comparison, sales at "Academic and Niche Booksellers" were down only 3% in volume terms.

August Bestselling Books
1) Lee Child's Worth Dying For (Bantam) 120,588
2) David Nicholls' One Day (Hodder) 120,216
3) David Nicholls' One Day: film tie-in edition (Hodder) 96,243
4) Dawn French's A Tiny Bit Marvellous (Penguin) 86,971
5) Sophie Kinsella's Mini Shopaholic (Black Swan) 72,386
6) Dorothy Koomson's The Woman He Loved Before (Sphere) 58,512
7) Elizabeth Noble's The Way We Were (Penguin) 57,066
8) James Patterson's Postcard Killers (Arrow) 55,280
9) Karen Rose's You Belong to Me (Headline) 53,082
10) Jo Nesbø's The Leopard (Vintage) 43,115

August Bestselling Authors
1) David Nicholls: £1.4m
2) George R R Martin: £1m
3) James Patterson: £0.8m
4) Lee Child: £0.7m
5) Jeff Kinney: £0.7m