Really fascinating glimpse of the development of the UK ebook business from BML/Bowker (as a teaser for their annual conference in March):
The survey also looks at how the e-book industry fares by genre. The adult fiction market saw spectacular e-book growth in 2011, up from 2.8% of purchases in the four weeks ending 26th December 2010 to 12.5% in the four weeks to 27th November 2011. But again, as e-books are being bought for lower prices, they accounted for only 7.1% of adult fiction spending in the latest period
via Bowker – British Book Buyers are Switching to “e” from Print and Spending Less.
Let’s start with the increase. From 2.8% of purchases to 12.5% of purchases that an increase of 346%.
Not bad going, especially when you consider the report doesn’t include the key Christmas period. That’s the same period by the way that saw Hachette, HarperCollins and Random House each sell over 100,000 ebooks on Christmas Day alone.
That suggests strongly that the 500% increase suggested by at least one UK publisher and referenced by The Bookseller’s Philip Jones in the excellent Futurebook email newsletter:
Were e-book sales in the UK worth £105m in 2011? That was the figure implied by Hachette UK when it stated last week that its e-book sales of £21m amounted to a 20% share of the UK e-book market. Hachette added that its own e-book sales had grown by “nearly 500%”.
We do not know if Hachette’s figure was stated at invoiced or published prices, and whether it included audio-book downloads and/or app sales, but either way it seems unlikely that Hachette’s own e-book growth will not have been reflected in the wider e-book market, meaning a second year of growth at 500%.
Jones has much much more of value in that newsletter this week so I encourage you to go read it. As Jones points out, if that £105m is correct and the market grows at a similar pace in 2012, that would bring digital sales to £500m and around 30% of the market! Pretty impressive growth.
Of course as I pointed our earlier this month, as ebook sales increase the have to overcome larger hurdles to show such large percentage gains. I’m not sure 2012 will deliver that in the UK, but it sure will be fun to find out if it can.
There has been some grumbling (I’ve a note coming on that later) about the slow pace of digital take up in the US in the last few days and weeks. I’ve a feeling that has as much to do with the now higher benchmarks the digital market is growing from.
By which I mean if the ebook market is worth $1 million then to double it need only increase by $1 million however when the market is $100 million it needs to increase by $100 million to double and when it is a $1 billion it must grow by a full $1 billion in order to double. Needless to say whereas $1 million in increased sales is hard to find, $1 billion is considerably harder.
On top of that, there is a real need to break analysis into markets to account for different market conditions. The UK is not the US and Ireland is not the UK. What’s more a UK publisher must react to UK market conditions. This has echoes of some of my thoughts about different rates of digital change from 2010. For instance, the UK is in the midst of a huge shift to digital BUT that shift has really happened over the last few months. 1.3 million ereaders were sold over the Christmas period and the UK market has as a consequence flourished since December.
Which makes the Quercus numbers all the more interesting. In 2011 digital sales accounted for 11% of their revenue, but grew 270% in December 2011 when compared to December 2010 promising a nice digital year in 2012.
We continue to benefit from our significant investments in digital publishing and marketing, website development and social networking. For the year as a whole, Quercus generated approximately 11% of its income from digital revenues, while the growth in ownership of eReading devices over the Christmas period contributed to an increase in eBook sales of 270% in comparison with the previous December.
via Quercus Christmas trading update | Quercus Books.
It’s entirely possible that many of those ereaders will remain idle, many will fall out of use, but enough will remain active to shift yet more readers who were once print dedicated into either digital dedicated reading or hybrid print/digital status. If those readers are heavy readers (as I suspect they will primarily be, after all why give someone who reads one book a year an ereader?) that will shift considerable numbers of digital units in 2012.
So the UK situation is very different to the US situation. We should avoid blanket statements.
Not a huge surprise but still, interesting …
The Office of Fair Trading has cleared Amazon to take over The Book Depository, ruling the merger would not lead to a lessening of competition within the UK book industry.The OFT decided there was limited pre-merger competition between the two companies and found that competition within Amazon Marketplace would continue to be strong after the takeover. It said The Book Depository only accounted for between 2-4% of the online market for physical books, and that TBD had most of its growth in overseas markets rather than the UK.
via OFT gives go-ahead for Amazon/TBD merger | The Bookseller.
UPDATE: According to a tweet sent this afternoon, the copany will retain operational independence from Amazon.
Congrats to the Book Depository team. I guess this is a case of, ‘How do you know you are doing something right? Amazon acquires you!’
It’s hard to know what the play is here. It could be any of:
1) Increasing UK and European exposure
2) Building a better position in Australia
3) Defensive market-share building
Or any number of other things. There must be some worries about competition approval, at least in the UK, with this.
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN – News) today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire The Book Depository International. The Book Depository is an online bookseller offering over six million books for delivery worldwide.
“Customers in more than 100 countries enjoy The Book Depository’s vast selection, convenient delivery and free shipping,” said Greg Greeley, Amazon’s Vice President of European Retail. “The Book Depository is very focused on serving its customers around the world, and we look forward to welcoming them to the Amazon family.”
Amazon to Acquire The Book Depository – Yahoo! Finance.
An interesting and sensible move this:
Bloomsbury has purchased the backlist of The National Archives Publishing programme, and entered into an agreement to co-publish a range of forthcoming titles.
The National Archives of the United Kingdom, in Kew, holds more than 1,000 years of government files from Foreign and Home Office records to colonial and military documents, with more than 80 million digitised records.
via Bloomsbury acquires National Archives backlist | The Bookseller.