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Some good news for the UK book industry this week. Figures for total book sales have hit a record high, the perfect boost for physical bookstores preparing to reopen on 12 April.
According to Nielsen Book Research’s Books & Consumer Survey, total book sales in all formats – print, digital and audio – reached 375m in 2020, the highest figure the UK has seen. Just how impressive this figure is can be seen when it is compared to the years 2012 to 2014, for instance. Back then the volume figures were 323m, 311m, and 311m (the same) respectively. British consumers are buying more books today – there are more books going into people’s homes, which is good news for publishers and booksellers.
The 375m figure is 6% up on the previous year, and 7% up on value at £2.65bn. There were 257m print books sold last year, though this format fell below 70% of market share in volume terms for the first time. E-books’ share of the market rose to 25% for the first time since 2016, the biggest increase the format has seen.
Sales of the printed books rose 2% last year to 257m, lower than predicted because there were fewer books bought in bookshops due to the various lockdowns.
But it seems the Covid-19 pandemic has had one distinct effect – it has increased our desire for stories and fed an understandable desire for escape. Sales of adult fiction were 9% up in volume to 147m and 7% in value to £777m – books have proved a worthy competitor to Netflix.