Printed book sales slump to nine-year low

Printed book sales slump to nine-year low

As temperatures soared across the UK, printed book sales slumped to their lowest level in nine years. Just £20.3m was spent on physical books at UK booksellers last week, Nielsen BookScan data reveals—the lowest seven-day figure since the week ending 31st May 2003.

Sales last week were down 9% (£2m) on the previous week, and down 21% (£5.4m) on the same week last year, with BookScan statistics suggesting that high street booksellers already suffering from the popularity of e-books may have been the hardest hit by the recent heat-wave. Sales through BookScan's General Retail Market panel of booksellers —which contains the likes of Waterstones, W H Smith, and general independent stores—slumped 12% week on week and were down a worrying 30% year on year.

Fiction remains the sector hardest hit by digital, with e-books currently accounting for approximately one in every five novels purchased in the UK. Last week, sales of novels were down approximately 30% year on year, and down 40% on the same week in the pre-digital days of 2008. This comes despite the huge success in print of E L James' Fifty Shades series, which continue to dominate the bestseller lists.

The three books in James' erotic trilogy were once again the bestselling printed books in the UK. Fifty Shades of Grey (Arrow) tops this week's Official UK Top 50 with a sale of 63,104 copies, while sequels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed take spots two and three in the chart with sales of 41,178 and 34,847 respectively.

Victoria Hislop, who is one of only five British female novelists in the "Millionaire's Club" of writers to have seen one of their books sell more than 1,000,000 copies since records began, takes fourth place in the Official UK Top 50 with her third novel, The Thread (Headline Review). The mass-market publication sold 21,521 copies in its first week on bookshop shelves. Three other mass-market novels début in the top 10: James Patterson's 18th Alex Cross thriller, Kill Alex Cross (Arrow); Ian Rankin's second Malcolm Fox thriller, The Impossible Dead (Orion); and Bernard Cornwell's sixth Saxon chronicle, Death of Kings (Harper).

Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies (Fourth Estate) stays top of the Original Fiction chart for a third consecutive week, becoming the first HarperCollins novelist to do so since Cecelia Ahern in April 2008. The hardback publication sold 9,189 copies in the seven days to 26th May.

Joanne Harris' third book following the life of Vianne Rocher, Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé (Doubleday), is this week's highest new entry in the list (second position). Sales totalled 3,928 copies in its first week on shelves.

TV fashion stylist Gok Wan has scored his first ever Bookseller number one. Sales of his Gok Cooks Chinese (Michael Joseph) totalled 9,189 copies last week—two-and-a-half times the sales of the next bestselling hardback non-fiction book of the week, Jo Wheatley's A Passion for Baking (Constable). The latter, a hand-baking bible by the winner of BBC's "Great British Bake Off", is currently exclusive to Sainsbury's.

Also joining the Top 20 this week are memoirs by "Dragons' Den" star Hilary Devey, and gold medal-winning diver Tom Daley, who turned 18 last week.

The paperback edition of one of the bestselling hardback history titles of all time joins this week's Paperback Non-fiction chart: Antony Beevor's D-Day (Penguin). The epic 600-page authoritative history of the battle for Normandy sold 4,140 copies in its first week on shelves and joins the chart in fourth position.

Acid attack victim Katie Piper's second memoir, Things Get Better (Quercus), débuts in fifth place helped by recent promotional appearances. Her first memoir, Beautiful (Ebury Press), has sold 135,000 copies to date.

Ann Patchett's State of Wonder (Bloomsbury) was narrowly the bestseller of the books vying for the Orange Prize for Fiction, to be announced this evening (30th May). The £7.99 publication sold 1,436 copies at UK booksellers last week, just 94 copies more than the next most popular shortlistee, Bloomsbury stablemate Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles.