First published on www.thebookseller.com.
Last year saw a higher number of books bought from internet-only businesses than from bricks and mortar stores for the first time, according to the annual Books & Consumers survey published by Bowker Market Research UK.
Bowker’s survey, presented by research director Steve Bohme at the Books & Consumers conference in London this morning (20th March), recorded a total of £125m in UK consumer spend on e-books in 2012, more than double that of 2011. The survey put British book sales at 269m in 2012, at a value of £2,108m.
E-books represented 11% of total consumer book purchases by volume last year, dropping back from a 12% peak in the third quarter to just 10% in the run-up to Christmas, as consumers bought printed gift books.
However the e-book share of adult fiction continued to rise throughout the year, accounting for nearly one in five books bought in the category in the final quarter. E-books also took an increasing share of young adult market purchases, hitting 11% of volume by the final quarter of the year, although books for children under 12 remained below 2% throughout the year. For adult non-fiction the overall percentage was less than 7%.
Total “p and e” book cash spend through the chain, independent and bargain bookshop sector as a whole remained ahead of that through internet-only retailers. But while bookshops remained “well ahead” on print books, internet-only businesses took 95% of the e-book share. Meanwhile those who bought e-books also bought more of their physical books via internet retailers, suggesting that when customers move to buying e-books they do also start to make a switch from bookshops to e-tailers to buy their printed reading.
However, the majority of books bought by consumers owning tablets and e-readers were still in print format, and the majority of book buyers still didn’t own a tablet or dedicated e-reader by the end of the year.
Roughly two thirds of all e-books bought in 2012 were by women—20m units as opposed to 11m for male readers, Bohme told the conference.