Print decline slows in 2013

Print decline slows in 2013

The size of the printed book market shrank by more than £40m in the first half of 2013.

The figure is largely due to continued migration to digital, as well as yearly comparison to a record-breaking E L James summer in 2012.

However, there are signs that the decline of the printed book market is slowing as e-book market growth decelerates.

Data from sales monitor Nielsen BookScan reveals printed book sales fell 6.7% (£41.7m) in the first half of 2013, to £582.7m, with volume sales of printed books falling 7.9% (6.8m units), to 79.3 million units. Average selling prices increased by 1.3% (9p) to £7.34.

Approximately a third of the shortfall can be attributed to E L James. The British writer was worth £15.2m in the first half of 2012, compared to £960,000 in the first six months of 2013.

With James’ figures stripped out, the size of the printed book market fell a shallower 4.5% year on year in the first half of 2013 in value terms, and down 4.2% in volume.
With data from Nielsen/Kantar estimating that approximately 20% of sales of all books in 2013 have been in digital formats—up from 15% last year—the growing popularity of e-books is primarily to blame for the decline in printed book sales.

However, recent reports from The Bookseller and Nielsen/Kantar revealing a slowdown in the growth of the UK e-book market are now complemented by BookScan’s data on the print market. Although the total value of the market was down 6.7% year on year (4.5% without the influence of James), this represents a shallower decline than in 2012, when sales in the first half were down 7.6% year on year.

Helped by the robustness of the Food & Drink sector and the intermittent fasting fad boosting the Fitness & Diet genre, the non-fiction sector proved the most robust at UK booksellers in the first half of the year, with value sales down just 4% year on year.

In comparison, fiction sales fell 6% while sales of children’s titles fell by 8%, in part due to the huge big-screen-boosted popularity of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games (Scholastic) novels and Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse (Egmont) last year.

Asked about the first half of 2013, Anna Bond, UK sales director at Pan Macmillan, said: “Overall we’re feeling very positive about the first half of the year. We are still seeing some good e-book growth, so it’s not as simple as saying there is a slowdown in e-book sales.”

However Diana Broccardo, sales and marketing director at Profile Books, said: “E-book sales are definitely flattening, especially when it comes to fiction. Non-fiction e-books might be growing slightly, but there’s a slowdown with fiction.” She added: “I’m not surprised that the market has declined again—the high street is certainly very flat for us.”

Andrew Furlow, sales and marketing director at Icon Books, said: “The vertiginous rate of growth for e-books has definitely slowed down a little, and I’ve been hearing that from a lot of people. It’s not the end, or the beginning of the end, but it might be the end of the beginning as it were. It has been an interesting first half of the year for us—we are seeing that when some books begin to get a bit of a head of steam, they can really sell well.”

A full analysis of the first half of the year, including e-book sales statistics and publisher and genre performance breakdowns, will be published in The Bookseller next week (19th July issue).