Fifty Shades of success for British publishing as e-readers spark 2012 sales boom


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The Independent Culture

Ebooks are not killing the publishing industry as feared by analysts. Quite the opposite, in fact, according to the latest sales figures which show the publishing industry in Britain is booming.

Last year total spending on printed and digital books rose 4 per cent to £3.3 billion according to the Publishers Association. The biggest growth area was in ebook downloads which grew by 66 per cent to £411 million.

Despite the shift in focus towards digital publishing print sales do not appear to have been denigrated as feared. Physical book sales last year were down just one per cent at £2.9 billion.

E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy held the top three spots of the best-selling titles of 2012 charts having collectively sold 10,509,988 copies.

The next biggest-seller was Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games which sold 2,113,017 in the 12 months to December 2012 according to Nielsen Bookscan.

Total sales of digital fiction increased last year by 149 per cent. Digital formats (which include ebooks, audiobooks downloads and online subscriptions) accounted for 12 per cent of total book sales in 2012, an increase from 8 per cent in 2011, and from 5 per cent in 2010.

Children’s books were another notable area of growth last year, up 4 per cent to £233 million.

The Publishers Association chief executive Richard Mollet said British publishing “was a healthy industry which continues to grow” and believes the industry has reacted quickly to the move toward e-readers sparked by the popularity of Amazon Kindles, Nooks, Kobo and iPads.

"What publishers were very quick to do [was] to make works available," Mollet told the BBC’s Today Programme. "That's the key to succeeding in the digital world - having them capable of being read on any device on any platform.”

Mollet said the main area of concern for the publishing industry is the challenges facing high street booksellers. He said the Publishers Association were set to launch a scheme to support independent book shops.