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Rising Ebook Sales Prop Up UK's Overall Book Market

Tablets drive ebook sales growth

May 15, 2013 | Mobile | Media & Entertainment

In 2011, the UK market for book sales, both physical and digital, declined by 2% year on year. But May figures from the Publishers Association showed that the market as a whole grew by 4% in 2012. This growth was despite a small slip in physical book sales, of 1%. Clearly, digital sales—which included both ebook sales and corporate subscriptions—were the driver behind the overall growth. And indeed, ebook sales alone more than doubled during the year.

It is no coincidence that this return to growth in the book business, and rocketing growth in the ebook business in particular, comes at a time when tablet and ereader sales are also rising fast. While ereaders were popular in the UK in 2012—according to eMarketer estimates, they were in the hands of 9.5 million people—tablets saw user numbers surge to 14.1 million that year, and double-digit growth is forecast for each year through 2016.

UK Tablet Users, 2011-2017

The corresponding rise of tablet and ebook sales aligns with tablets’ growing role as do-it-all devices. More and more, tablets are being preferred to ereaders due to their expansize capabilities; their use as reading devices is becoming a firmly rooted consumer behavior. According to Kinetic’s “Moving Minds Panel” report, almost half of UK tablet users read ebooks on their device as of February 2013. While other functions were more prevalent, that ebooks still took so much attention was striking.

Tablet Activities of UK Tablet Users, Feb 2013 (% of respondents)

With ereader user numbers set to grow—albeit slowly—in the next few years, along with strong growth forecast for tablet users, the ebook market stands to benefit greatly.

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