Post-Christmas digital sales rocket

Post-Christmas digital sales rocket

Publishers have reported e-book sales surging by up to 355% post-Christmas, as Nielsen BookScan figures show print sales in fiction declined by 30% year on year in the three weeks since Christmas Day.

HarperCollins said sales of its digital books more than tripled to a rise of 355% in the seven days from Boxing Day at the same time as its print book sales fell by 60%. The publisher previously reported that readers downloaded 100,000 of the company's e-books on Christmas Day alone. Hachette reported an increase of 190% in the week of 26th December–1st January, saying that "over the Christmas period" Hachette UK sold "well in excess" of one million e-books. However, the publisher declined to give a comparison to its print sales.

According to Nielsen BookScan figures, total printed book sales were down 16% (£4.4m) year on year to £22.5m in the week to 31st December. Fiction sales were down 30% year on year, with hardbacks down 14% and paperbacks down 34%. The same trend has continued into the New Year, with total print book sales in the three weeks to 14th January down 14.6% to £69.5m year on year and fiction sales down 29%. The figures come after YouGov reported that 1.3 million people received e-readers in the UK over the Christmas period, 92% of them Kindles.

Victoria Barnsley, HC's chief executive, said: "From our analysis HC . . . appears to be punching above its weight when it comes to digital market share, and The Friday Project's brilliant Confessions of a GP was the bestselling e-book of the year across all devices." Scott Pack, director of digital product development at The Friday Project, said sales had "gone mental" following Christmas, with Confessions of a GP by Benjamin Daniels, an 18-month-old title, selling 20,000 copies in the week after Christmas, while physical sales achieved just 150 copies "at best". Pack said the e-book originally did well because of a low price, good title, and good blurb taking it into the top 10 Apple chart, and that the company continues to monitor the book's progress, allowing the price to fluctuate between 99p and £2.99. "Everytime we offer it at 99p it comes back to the top of the bestseller chart," he said. 

Indie publishers also saw hikes in e-book sales following Christmas. John Blake Publishing achieved 80,000 digital sales in December, up 78% on November—which the company attributed to post-Christmas e-book buying. By comparison, overall print sales fell 25% in December 2011 compared with December 2010.

Michael O'Mara Books reported the same trend in digital growth, selling 40,000 e-books in the first week of January compared with 12,000 units in the last week of December. Its lead digital title, Rosie's War by Rosemary Say and Noel Holland, featured in Amazon's 12 Days of Kindle promotion and digital book sales accounted for 90% of the sales of that title in the first week of January. Digital sales manager Penelope Pourpoutidou said: "I think the UK is finally becoming aware of e-books now and I think this trend is going to continue far beyond January." OneWorld Publications said it sold 17,800 digital units in the first week of January, whereas it had sold 16,000 in the week to 12th December.