Skip to Content

Ebook sales slow

29 July 2013

Ebook sales growth in the UK seems to be flattening this year. A recent Bowker study showed that digital is taking a much greater proportion of the fiction market than of narrative non-fiction, as in the US.

Browsing in bookshops is still the number one means of discovering books and in the US independent booksellers have managed to increase their number of businesses and locations in 2012 compared with 2011.

In the UK the supermarkets are important competitors to bookshops and their price cutting on books is much greater than in the US - as is shown by the fact that in one of them you could recently buy Dan Brown's latest for just £6 with a £30 bag of shopping.
Another rather disturbing statistic is that ebook purchasers also bought most of their print books online. In 2014 Kantor World panel's UK data predicts that sales volume will be up but value severely down, as ebooks surge ahead and replace paperbacks. The trouble is that the average price of ebooks is just £3, whilst paperbacks, which are themselves much cheaper than hardbacks, average £5.50.

Liz Thomson of Bookbrunch, writing in Publishers' Weekly says:
‘The key question remains: how much further will the digital inroads go? The U.K. is on something of a plateau right now. If e-growth continues to slow, there will be increasing recognition that there really is room for physical books and a need for bookshops to sell them. If it accelerates, a lot of booksellers will head for the hills.'

The surge in popularity of ebooks does give writers a possible cheaper route to market, but these low prices are giving consumers the impression that books should be much cheaper than in the past, which is not a positive thing for authors' earnings.