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UK Fiction Sales Shrink

14 January 2002

According to a recent study by Book Marketing Ltd, fiction sales in the UK have fallen by about 10% in the last 18 months. Hardback sales have continued to decline and now account for only 17% of all fiction titles sold, or 26% of the total by value.

There is also little sign that discounting, even of bestsellers, is having the effect of encouraging more purchases, as the book trade had hoped. 'It does not appear that discounting has had either a positive or a negative effect on the overall level of hardback fiction sales,' the report comments.

Perhaps discounting is tending to encourage book-buyers to buy the heavily-discounted books, rather than leading them to buy more fiction overall. So the publishers' and bookselling chains' view that discounting is about securing their own market share may be right after all, but the cost to the book trade as a whole is wafer-thin margins and an unstable market. The sudden announcement last week that James Thin, one of Scotland's oldest-established booksellers, had gone into receivership, is the kind of unwelcome news that 2002 may hold in store.