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Nielsen reveals further decline in print and books as gifts, rise in digital

We already know that print sales declined in 2013 (as they have year on year for a while now), dropping in value from £1.514 billion in 2012 to £1.416 billion – a slump of £98 million, 6.5% of total print sales in 2012. We also know that the decline in print books sold year on year was even more precipitous, dropping 9.8% from around 203.9 million units sold in 2012 to 183.9 million. Now Nielsen has released the results of its Book Survey analysing the damage in more detail, showing an overall decline of 4% in UK book sales across print and digital and pointing out one major contributing factor in particular – a fall in the number of books bought as gifts.

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The Author Earnings report: point/counterpoint

By now you’ve probably encountered self-published author Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings report – which debuted online yesterday – in some form or another, whether through a direct link or via alarmist headlines such as io9’s ‘This chart ought to make the publishing industry very nervous‘. Superficially, at least, the latter might not seem like excessive hyperbole: extrapolating from his own Amazon sales reports, coupled with the expertise of ‘an author with advanced coding skills who [has] created a software program that can crawl online bestseller lists and grab mountains of data’, Howey reports back some startling figures. Most attention-grabbing: for the top 2,500 genre bestsellers on Amazon (mystery, thriller, suspense, sci-fi, fantasy, romance), 86% of sales are digital. For the top 100, that figure rises to 92%. Self-published genre e-books garner only 24% of total daily earnings, but take 47% of the daily revenue to authors. As for daily unit sales: 39% self-published versus 34% from the Big Five combined. Conclusion: the self-publishing revolution is well underway. Countering that is author and Guardian columnist Damien Walter, who rightfully points out that Howey’s figures are by no means authoritative (although given that Amazon and the Big Five are in no rush to publish their own detailed sales figures, they might be the best we have). Though Walter concords with Howey that figures like those cited above are astonishing to consider, particularly when contrasted with pre-Kindle sales figures for self-published books, he parts ways with Howey’s interpretation of those figures: where Howey sees an appetite being met for genre fiction amongst mass audiences by self-published authors, Walter instead suggests that the success of those genres has more to do with how abundant and easily accessible e-books are – whether by tablet, phone, computer, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, whatever – and how much of a marketing hook genre can be for people who previously might not have been regular readers, and are now impulse buyers browsing Amazon. Walter also invokes author Chuck Wendig’s wonderfully-named concept of ‘the Shit Volcano’ of self-publishing: a boom period before the dust settles on the new technology where regularly putting out poorly-written genre knock-offs to take advantage of inexperienced readers can make people a healthy living. Calling the belief that this period will become status quo ‘very naive’, he concludes: ‘As the ebook market matures, it will have to steadily rise in quality or collapse. If the Author Earnings report data isn’t all solid fact, the need for quality certainly is.’ Whichever side you ultimately come down on (and, if you’re regularly reading this site, I think I can take a pretty solid stab at guessing which), Howey’s report and Walter’s analysis are both worth reading and musing over.

Literacy research: Is writing cool? [VIEWPOINT]

Tom ChalmersTom Chalmers is Managing Director at IPR License. Is writing cool? Actually is the word cool cool? What exactly is cool anyway? Well not writing, at least according to 8-16 year old boys. Recent research compiled in the report “Children and Young People’s Writing in 2012” by the National Literacy Trust suggested that one in five boys said they would be embarrassed if friends saw them write, compared to one in eight girls, and boys were less likely to say writing was “cool” (26.8% compared to 35.2%). Out of the 35,000 8-16 year olds surveyed for the report, 8.6% of the boys said they didn’t enjoy writing, compared to 20.9% of girls. And while 32.6% of girls said they write outside of class on a daily basis, 30.2% of boys said they never or rarely did. Now I’m certainly not having a go at the National Literary Trust but including the very 90’s word of cool is indicative of how publishing, writing and reading is reflected amongst the 8-16 age bracket. Maybe if words such as sick, dope, the shiz, nasty, or even awesome had been used percentages might have risen.

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Independent bookshops continue to disappear from high street

The Booksellers Association last week released its annual membership figures, and they made for grim reading for lovers of independent bookshops: for the sixth year running, the total number of indies on the UK high street remained in decline.

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Are e-readers teaching us to read again? [INFOGRAPHIC]

A team of designers and researchers over at OnlineTeachingDegree.com have designed an infographic highlighting how they believe e-readers are inspiring us (or folks in the States at least) to hit the books. What do you think? Are e-readers making a difference? Take a look below… (via Kaitlyn White)

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Rise of the Machines: Amazon e-book sales pass print

It’s a moment everyone always knew was coming, and it’s finally here: Amazon said yesterday that sales of Kindle downloads have officially sailed past print sales in the UK. Of course, it can say anything it likes, because its figures remain unaudited and, given the lack of further comment on the matter, look likely to remain that way. If you’re prepared to take the omnimegahyperconglomerate (or whatever) at its word, however, then for every 100 print books it has sold so far in 2012 in the UK, 114 of its paid-for e-books have been downloaded (and if you’re really, really bad at maths, that means that e-book sales are 14% higher than print sales). UK Kindle owners are apparently buying on average four times as many books now as they did before buying the device.

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Bring Your Own Technology

We keep hearing that America is a few years ahead of us in terms of technology. If this is the case then UK Publishers, Schools and Educators take note. A recent report from the The Consortium for School Networking in America has highlighted that schools should be allowing their students to bring their own technology to the classroom, rather than just for use at break times. Whilst this is economically viable for schools it does pose a few problems, not only for the parents who will need to be buying this technology for their kids, but for educational Publishers. It essentially means that every title will need to work seamlessly across all devices. This is a big headache for educational publishers, who are creating digital components for their courses.

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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.

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