The growing popularity of digital readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and ebook titles by authors including Stephen Fry and Stieg Larsson helped boost UK sales of digital book products by 20 percent to £180 ($296.61) ($296.61 (£180) million) last year.
The Publishers Association, the trade body that represents companies that account for about 70 percent of the UK publishing market, said total sales – including digital products and physical books – increased by 2 percent year on year in 2010 to £3.1 ($5.11) ($5.11 (£3.1) billion).
Growth in digital product sales – including ebooks, downloads and audiobooks sold direct to consumers and academic and professional sales to schools and institutions – helped cover a 3 percent fall in the volume of physical books.
The Publishers Association found the total value of digital sales from data supplied by members for its annual yearbook was £120 ($197.74) ($197.74 (£120) million) last year, 38 percent higher than in 2009.
However, the association claims when the figures are extrapolated for the whole UK market sales rose about 20 percent from £150 ($247.17) ($247.17 (£150) million) to £180 ($296.61) ($296.61 (£180) million) year on year, taking account the 30 percent of the industry that are not members of the Publishers Association.
“Digital publishing is growing at an impressive rate in whichever part of the sector you choose to look,” said Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association.
“Academic and professional publishing, which embraced digital platforms over a decade ago, continues to lead the field. But now that technology is putting ereading devices into consumers’ hands, we are starting to see the rapid growth of digital sales in this area too, as consumer publishers develop digital formats to reach wider audiences.”
The figures show that about 70 percent or £84 ($138.41) ($138.41 (£84) million) of the £120 ($197.74) ($197.74 (£120) million) in digital sales last year by PA members came from the academic and professional sector. This was up 29 percent year on year.
There was a four-fold increase in the general consumer digital sales category from £4 ($6.59) ($6.59 (£4) million) to £16 ($26.37) ($26.37 (£16) million) last year. This category includes sales of ebooks, audiobooks and downloads bought by members of the public.
Within this £6 ($9.89) ($9.89 (£6) million) in sales were for fiction titles – three times the 2009 figure – £1 ($1.64) ($1.64 (£1) million) were non-fiction and £1 ($1.64) ($1.64 (£1) million) were children’s books.
The remaining £8 ($13.18) ($13.18 (£8) million) was not broken down be category or genre. The report says about 3.4m “units” of digital products were sold to consumers, four times more than in 2009.
The average price was £4 ($6.59).56, up from £3.93 ($6.47) in 2009, and more than £1 ($1.64).50 higher than the equivalent physical book.
Best-selling authors of digital formats include Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, James Patterson and Fry’s The Fry Chronicles. Penguin, which publishes Fry and Jamie Oliver, recently said ebook revenues were up 182 percent year on year and account for about 6 percent, or £6 ($9.89) ($9.89 (£6) million), of global revenues.
Overall the share of digital sales accounted for by the consumer market for ebooks and downloads rose from 2 percent to 11 percent in 2010.
Outside of the general consumer market sales of ebooks and downloads – to the likes of academic institutions – were £26 ($42.85) ($42.85 (£26) million), up 62 percent year on year. Online subscriptions were £6 ($9.89) ($9.89 (£6) million), up 25 percent year on year.
“The innovation in the digital marketplace … is only possible because of the robust and flexible copyright framework which underpins the UK creative industries,” said Mollett.
“Copyright ensures that authors, writers and researchers get rewarded for their talent and expertise, and that the publishers who support them see a return on their investment – particularly in their digital infrastructure.”
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.