Digital rises, print declines, sky blue: Publisher’s Association releases 2011 figures

Time to blow off that screening of The Avengers you were planning on catching this evening, because something far more exciting has come up: statistics, and plenty of ’em. Yes, the Publisher’s Association has released its Statistical Yearbook for 2011, and the figures largely confirm what everyone already knows: digital is on the (slow but steady) rise, print is on the (slow but steady) decline and bookshops are continuing to disappear from the high street.

Across the industry, e-book sales are up 54% on 2010, a boost that has seen their value to the industry more than triple in five years: from £74 million in 2007 to £243 million in 2011. In the UK, sales have more than tripled in the past year alone, with year on year sales from 2010 to 2011 rising by a total of £54 million, from £16 million to £70 million. Apparently the key to this entire business is the number 54, if numerology’s your thing.

The Telegraph notes that the rise in digital sales correlates almost exactly with the decline in the print market for paperback fiction: the £54 million increase in e-book sales set against a £57 million loss in revenue for paperbacks, a difference of only (‘only’) £3 million. Despite that decline, sales of physical books remained markedly higher than those of digital: even after the £57 million loss from 2010, print brought in a total of £489 million in the UK in 2011, which is just shy of seven times as much as digital. The message to take from this? E-readers might be the future of publishing, but only a fool would entirely neglect more traditional methods at this juncture (try telling that to the high street though, which has seen close to 2,000 book shops close since 2006).

2011’s bestselling print title in the UK was, by some distance, David Nicholls’ One Day, which, with close to a million copies sold, almost doubled the 459,000 sales of its nearest competitor, Dawn French’s debut novel A Tiny Bit Marvellous. Authors and publishers alike, take note: if you want your book to crush the competition, make sure it stars Anne Hathaway.

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