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Latest trends in UK and US book-buying

25 March 2013

Last week's annual Books and Consumers research from Bowker showed some interesting trends in book-buying both in the UK and the US. In 2012 British consumers bought 296m books, compared to 288m in 2011, but for the fifth year in a row spend declined from £2,137m ($3.226) to £2.1086 ($3.182) as the lower prices for ebooks started to affect the overall price mix.

Similarly there was more spend through physical bookshops but more books were bought through online sources because the ebook market is online, and 95% of the ebook market belongs to Amazon through its Kindle. The shops are still important for book discovery and still accounted for over 90% of total book spend.

In the US there was an accelerating trend for the American book-buyer to be female, older and better educated. There was strong growth in this more mature ebook market in sales of adult fiction, particularly Romance and Crime, where there's been a huge growth in ebook sales, which now constitute 50% of the American market.

In the States the indies are very challenged but are hanging in there. On both sides of the Atlantic Borders closing down has led to a substantial loss of book sales, as it seems that book-buyers don't just go elsewhere, many of them stop buying books.

Further Bowker research showed the enormous importance of bookshops for browsing and finding what you want, whereas online retailers don't score so well with that. Conversely they do well with book-buyers who know what they want and go online to buy it.