Random House has hit the landmark of two million e-books sold in the UK, with other leading publishers reporting a first quarter “explosion” in digital sales.
E-books currently account for 8% of RH's overall sales, with Lee Child, James Patterson and Jo Nesbø its biggest-selling authors in e-books. The publisher is now selling e-books at a rate 10 times greater than at the same point in 2010.
Deputy c.e.o. Ian Hudson identified the increased number of titles available as e-books as a key sales-driving factor, with 6,000 titles available in the format from RH now, up from 1,800 in the first quarter of 2010. He added the publisher is continuing to work to have all titles available as e-books, a process that would be completed in around two years.
Hudson also said the sales milestone follows the greater availability of e-reading devices: “Clearly it's because of the devices that were sold at Christmas, and it's people settling in and reading and buying more e-books with them.” While Random House has yet to sign up to selling books through Apple's iBookstore in the UK, Hudson mentioned the launch of the iPad, people being more accustomed to reading on the iPhone and the launch of the Kindle store in the UK as “big factors”.
Meanwhile, as part of parent company first-quarter results, both Penguin and Hachette UK reported a leap in e-book sales, with Penguin reporting a doubling of e-book sales in the quarter compared to the same period in 2010. A spokesperson suggested the growth could be attributed to “consumers loading up devices they were given for Christmas”. The publisher currently has 3,948 titles available as e-books in the UK.
Hachette quadrupled its e-book sales in the first three months of 2011 compared to the same period last year, with digital books now making up more than 5% of the company's trade sales.
Like Hudson, Hachette UK head of digital George Walkley attributed the growth to title and device proliferation. He said: “The explosion in e-book sales has a lot to do with the availability of good reading devices . . . There is now a huge range of e-books available . . . but we must not lose sight of the fact that, at the moment, e-book sales are substitutional.” He added: “The challenge facing the industry is to attract new readers and grow the market for all books in all formats.”
Digital books accounted for 3.25% of Simon & Schuster's total sales in Q1 this year, up from less than 1% for the comparable period a year ago. Managing director Ian Chapman said he expected digital to account for 5% of total sales by the end of 2011. He said: “It's very exciting. The introduction of Apple into the market, the response from Amazon with the £111 Kindle and the amount of advertising it has done for it has been exceptional. We are now working very proactively to publish with the same focus and expertise digitally as well as physically.”
Figures in the PA Statistics Yearbook 2010 also demonstrate the growth of e-book sales, with data showing the digital publishing market is now worth 6% of UK publishers' sales. Consumer digital sales were up more than 300% in 2010 to £16m. E-book sales were valued at £13m, with the PA estimating that, including sales from publishers not included in the yearbook panel, the digital consumer market was now worth almost £20m.