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UK Book Sales Hit New High

But ebook sales played a fading part

April 28, 2017

2016 was a record-setting year for the UK’s publishing business, with sales of books and journals reaching a new high of £4.8 billion ($6.5 billion). But ebooks played a lesser role than in years past, with sales down 3%.

Total sales of books and journals grew 7% for the year, according to The Publishers Association. It was the industry’s largest annual sales increase since 2007.

Overall digital book sales grew by 6% to £1.7 billion ($2.3 billion), accounting for 35% of total revenues. The segment’s fortunes were aided by a 28% increase in sales of audio books and a 6% rise in sales of academic/professional digital books.

However, sales of the digital segment’s largest subcategory, ebooks, slipped 3% to £538 million ($726 million), driven downward by a 17% dip in consumer ebook sales to £204 million ($275 million)—reportedly a level not seen since 2011.

Ebooks wasn’t the only category to suffer in 2016. Physical sales of fiction books fell by 7% to £525 million ($709 million). The category’s sales have dropped 23% since 2012, according to The Publishers Association.

Despite fiction’s poor performance, overall physical sales of consumer books rose 5% to £1.8 billion, fueled largely by a 16% jump in sales of children’s books to £365 million ($493 million) and a 9% gain in sales of nonfiction books to £884 million ($1.2 billion).

The Publishers Association growth figures are essentially in line with estimates based on Nielsen Book data released in February.

—Cliff Annicelli

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