Digital Books now make up 5% of total UK book sales

The Bookseller is an excellent site for UK publishing news and they have a rather important article on digital book sales in the UK out today.

Are Digital Books really 5% of total book sales?

Here are the key details regarding digital book sales –

  1. 27% increase over the last two years. 20% from 2008.
  2. £150 million in revenue in 2009.
  3. Publishers who reported accounted for 67% of the industry by turnover.
  4. £150 million represents 4 to 5% of combined physical and digital sales.

Do check out the Bookseller article to see which areas grew the most.

Note that in digital books they combine ebooks and audiobooks – so the figures for ebooks might be a bit lower (assuming its digital audiobooks).

What happens when the impact of the Kindle factors in?

The UK didn’t have the Kindle until the very end of 2009. It still doesn’t have the Nook or the Sony Daily Edition. Even the JesusTablet and the promised revolution in ebooks it will bring hasn’t arrived yet.

That means that digital books are poised to grow from 5% to a lot more. Here are a few things to keep in mind –

  1. Until the Kindle arrived the number of books available in the UK were around 40,000 to 50,000. We’re excluding public domain books.
  2. Until the Kindle arrived there was no eReader with wireless downloads and all the convenience that offers.
  3. The number of ereader owners in the UK is still very low.

In 2010 and 2011 we should see a big impact from eReaders and eBooks. One that would make the 20% growth in digital book sales from 2008 to 2009 seem tiny.  

Why does the US Publishing Industry have a lower share for ebooks than UK?

The UK 5% figure also makes it puzzling that US Publishers’ figures always show ebooks as 2 to 3% of total sales.

Is it that the Kindle and Sony and Nook have had so little impact? Were eBooks a really tiny piece of the industry to begin with? Is it creative accounting to avoid getting scared?

Amazon probably aren’t reporting on sales of independent titles and reformatted public domain books. It’d be a safe bet that in the US ebooks account for over 5% of the total sales revenue from books. Publishers are probably just not aware of it or perhaps are hiding from it.

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