New Chapter? UK Print Book Sales Fall While Audiobooks Surge 43%

From The Guardian:

UK book sales fell for the first time in five years in 2018, despite the success of bestsellers such as Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming.

The UK publishing industry was hit by a surprise fall of £168m (5.4%) in sales of physical books last year, ending a period of growth stretching back to at least 2014.

Sales fell from £3.11bn in 2017 to £2.95bn last year, according to the latest figures from the Publishers Association, which published its annual yearbook on Wednesday.

. . . .

Audiobook sales surged 43% to £69m last year, with Amazon’s Audible service dominating sales. However, Stephen Lotinga, the chief executive of the Publishers Association, said this was not the sole reason for the decline in print sales.

“One of the biggest changes has been the increase in audiobook sales,” said Lotinga. “There is some substitution away from print, audio has surged, but there was also always going to be a point where print sales couldn’t continue rising every year.”

. . . .

“We think that podcasting is helping to drive a resurgence in audio in general, including books,” he said. “Publishers are investing a huge amount in building [recording] studios and securing the services of top quality actors to voice the books. We think the whole audio scene is showing huge opportunity.”

However, he warned against pronouncing the beginning of a terminal decline in physical book sales in the same way the music industry has experienced with the move from CD to streaming in the last decade.

. . . .

Overall, the digital book market, which as well as audiobooks includes ebook sales and subscriptions to services such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, rose 4.6% to £653m.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

6 thoughts on “New Chapter? UK Print Book Sales Fall While Audiobooks Surge 43%”

  1. Given Amazon’s somewhat secretive approach to releasing sales data I wonder what is their source for digital sales and just how reliable the figures are. It sounds as if the data comes from the Publishers Association but I’d not expect them to have figures for KU for example.

    I anyway find unit sales more interesting than monetary sales amounts and always wonder what impact changes in the average retail cost of a book has had on the results. Was the recent run of increases due to increased unit sales, increased prices, both or just one of the two?

      • I think I’d ask for enough salt to clear the winter’s ice and snow from the hill outside my house.

        Polls always depend on the sampling method and the questions asked but also depend on the subjects knowing the answers. If the subject is anything like me – improbable admittedly – replies about book purchases would be “not really sure” and “I need to check my computer records”. And as I’m part of the long tail that pushes the average well above the median my uncertainty would corrupt the results (as would the sample missing – or getting too many – people like me).

        Anyway, I doubt that the monetary amounts come from surveys, though I don’t really know what they are: my guess would be sums publishers received from wholesalers/retailers rather than what the punters spent (before or after returns?). Were they based on survey answers to a question on “how much did you spend on books in 2018” I would discount any answer other than “no idea” or “nothing”, though there are no doubt obsessives out there who can tell you how much they spent on anything! (And without admitting to any kind of obsession I just checked and found my 2018 e-book purchases came to £1,015.92).

  2. Publishers hit by surprise 5.4% fall in 2018 – but warn against proclaiming terminal decline

    Yet when posting ebook sales drops it sure seems like a “decline” story is inferred. Odd, that.

Comments are closed.