Record UK book sales in 2012


Books (Photo credit: henry…)

Despite all the financial doom and gloom over the last few years, British publishers seem to be bucking the trend as they have reported record sales in 2012.

According to this article on the BBC Website, total spending on books (both printed and digital form) rose to £3.3bn in 2012. That represents a 4% increase on the previous year.

I keep hearing that e-book sales are going to swallow their print counterparts, but when you consider just £400m of these sales were e-books with the rest being print copies, the feel of the paperback still seems to be winning the readers over.

Having said that, digital sales did increase by 66% compared with physical sales seeing a small 1% drop.

Overall, the book business still seems to be in good shape and though these numbers don’t take into account self-published titles (weighted more towards digital sales than print), the demise of the paperback is greatly exaggerated.

I still think authors/publishers are missing a trick. This is their chance to sell back catalogue books cheaper than the paperback versions. I know I would buy more older books if they weren’t priced at £4.99-£5.99 for the Kindle.

They might not like the e-reader, but it is here to stay and they could boost their sales more by taking the cost of printing, storage and delivery of the book off the price for the consumer. Because of VAT you can pay more for an e-book than the paperback, which has to be wrong, particularly for older titles.

I’m not going to mention the most popular books over the last year, because I think we all know which series takes that honour, but I did want to investigate my own trends.

Between my wife and I, we have downloaded over 100 books in the last 18 months and bought less than 10 print books. Go e-books!

I buy more books now than ever before and more than I can read. I have enough to keep me going for the next three or four years. 🙂

How many books do you buy?

What ratio of those are e-books?

Last week we experienced some sunshine! I commemorated this rare event with a photograph of my magnolia plant. Look at the colour of the sky!

Picture of magnolia

My magnolia in full bloom

About Pete Denton

I'm a writer working my way through the redrafts of a British crime novel. I also write short stories, flash fiction and some screen writing. Check out my blog for more.
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42 Responses to Record UK book sales in 2012

  1. Maybe the record sales are because people can’t afford to go out anymore, so they’re staying home to read instead!

    I don’t actually buy many books, I mostly seem to get given them, but out of those I do buy, in the last year it has been more e-books than physical books. I don’t have a Kindle, but I finally found an e-book reader for my phone that I like (after trying and failing with several!).

    • Pete Denton says:

      Yeah, cheaper entertainment. I’d not thought of that, but you have a good point there. I couldn’t read a book on my phone, but isn’t technology great that you can!

      • I didn’t think I could read a book on my phone either! My other half kept telling me to try different e-readers and I resisted for ages and in the end I relented and was so pleased with the one I ended up with, the right font size and everything. I like it because I always have my phone with me, so it’s so easy whenever I have a few minutes, like standing in a queue or something, to just whip it out and read a bit.

  2. EllaDee says:

    I think consumers are purchasing what’s affordable, and I agree I would buy older books in e format if they were more reasonably priced. Most e-books which I read via my phone are Indies. Between us, the G.O. and I have bought about 2 dozen books in the last year, mostly paperbacks and about a dozen e-books but most of the hardcopies are second hand, we’re browsers and impulse buyers. We don’t necessarily buy to read right now. I borrow a lot from the library, I would send us broke otherwise but I buy more e-books now because they are affordable. I would say we follow the trend of buying more books than we did.
    Beautiful pic and sky.

    • Pete Denton says:

      More choice is good for us consumers. If the big publishers swallowed their pride and offered more older books at discounted prices compared to print I’m sure they would boost sales even more.

      I buy for later as well. I like to have choice over what to read next.

      Since I took the photograph the grey has returned. At least I have documented our summer 🙂

  3. anneb54 says:

    Most of my books come from the library — hooray for libraries!! If I do buy, then it is print, mainly because I like to own books about natural history subjects. I like to drool over the botanic art in them. Somehow drooling over an e-reader is not the same! Anyway, put me down for buying print.

    • Pete Denton says:

      I think you might be right! An e-reader might not do justice to natural history. A tablet like an iPad would work wonders though 🙂

      Well done for supporting libraries.

  4. I still prefer the feel of a book in my hands and have bought quite a few over the last 12 months and people tend to buy me books for Christmas/Birthdays etc. But I’m not a total technophobe and do have Kindle for PC on which I’ve downloaded about two dozen books in the same time frame because the blurb has appealed or because they’re new writers I know.
    What’s happened to the sky since you took that pic Pete?

    • Pete Denton says:

      I’ve read loads of self-published books over the last 12 months and have more still to read. My hands struggle with a thick books whereas the Kindle is the same thickness for a 100 pager as it is for a 600+. Means I can read longer 🙂

      I think my photograph sucked the good weather away. I do apologise 🙂

  5. I agree E-books are here to stay. But, I still find myself trying to turn the page on my Kindle..years and years of hard-copy book reading shows! Since I bought my Kindle at Xmas…I find that I only buy the e-books now, they are cheaper! But, every once in a while, I still find myself browsing thru the bin at Wally World, looking for a good title!

    Ah, the sweet smell of magnolias! Great post!

  6. jadereyner says:

    I used to always read paperbacks/hardbacks until I got my Kindle but now it is e books all the way for me. If there is a particular book that I love, then I may also buy the print copy as a keepsake but I just love the flexibility of being to download whatever, whenever. My husband also has a Kindle but he is still a bigger fan of the print copy. Definitely a personal thing and as a new author, very pleased with the sales figures..!!

  7. Gwen says:

    Interesting post, as yesterday I read an article in The Guardian about the skyrocketing sales of self-published books between 2006-11, both in electronic and print form. I don’t keep track of the number of books I buy, but Amazon does. The company has just recommended that I sign up for Amazon Prime to receive free shipping over the next year, based on what I paid for shipping last year. I have an e-reader that I use occasionally, but I still prefer to hold a physical book in my hands.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Gwen. I wonder what the value of the total book sales, including self-published, would be. We do seem to all be buying a decent amount of books. 🙂

  8. jtailele says:

    I too have bought more books this year than ever before and that seems to be steadily increasing year after year. I can contribute several reasons for it. First, I have more time since we no longer have children in the house. Second, I am more content to read a book than to participate in something more active (which is probably a negative for my health)
    Third, since I am writing more, I also read to study style, character development, pacing, etc. And also for research.
    I know I buy a significantly higher number of ebooks than print editions, but if I really love a book, i will buy the print edition just because I want it on my shelf.
    Some of plusses to the Kindle is the compactness. If I am traveling, it takes the place of 3 or 4 books. Then there is reading on the beach. Perfect. And reading late at night, I love the little reading light built in to my cover. And I love to increase the font when my eyes get tired.
    For my love of print editions, I prefer hard covers over trade or paperback. If I am going to buy a book, I want the “collector” copy complete with author signature if I can.

    • Pete Denton says:

      For certain authors I enjoy, I buy the hardbacks. They look good and I like being able to read them earlier than waiting for the paperback. It does seem weird that the hardback Kindle price is so high, but I guess that’s one that will take a while to lower the price.

      Reading for research and reading as a writer is something I find myself doing more and more. Still enjoyable though 🙂

  9. Interesting blog piece, Pete. Our house is packed with books, but most of them were purchased before the advent of Kindle. Both my husband and I both purchase e-books almost exclusively. I do love the feel and look of a book, though, and will purchase the latest book by any of a small number of favorite authors. I have way more books on Kindle than I can possible read in the next year and they are piling up. And then there is the stack of books people gave me for Christmas.

    • Pete Denton says:

      This seems to be an epidemic of too many books on e-readers 🙂

      I like being able to buy a book and be reading it within a minute. We do live in a fast world 🙂

  10. Mart Dawson says:

    As much as the ebook is great, it will never replace the feel and sense of completion once you turn the last page of a book. It will be a sad day when there are no more books.

  11. 4amWriter says:

    I have a Kindle, but I still don’t enjoy reading on it. I much prefer the old-fashioned book. I have downloaded a few books on it, mostly free e-books or books from blogging pals. But even when the story is enjoyable, it takes a lot for me to pick up the Kindle because I simply don’t like the technical feel of reading. Somehow it’s not as relaxing.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Interesting that you don’t find it as relaxing. I never thought I would be drawn in to reading on the Kindle, but I seem to be fully converted. Probably all part of Amazon’s plan to take over the world. You’ll be one of the survivors as we’re all under their spell 😉

  12. jmmcdowell says:

    We tend to buy e-books more now than paper, but we haven’t made that complete switch. And my husband still checks out a lot of paper books from the library.

    And I think you’re right that people would buy more of the older books if they cost less. We have the pre-1920 books for free, why not then do the back catalogs from then to the 1970s or so for just a couple dollars or pounds?

    • Pete Denton says:


      I had all Dean Koontz early books, about the first 25 before I gave them to a charity shop. I would buy some of them again if they were reasonably priced, but most of them are full price. For kindle as though they’ve only just been released. They are missing out 🙂

  13. Kourtney Heintz says:

    I will go for a paperback if the author is signing copies or if I know I love the author, but when I try debut authors it’s usually on my Kindle or at the library. I love the Kindle when traveling. It’s so much lighter to carry a dozen books on there. 😉

  14. joseasanoj says:

    Good Post..
    Sanoj Jose (Author, My Day Out With An Angel)

  15. metan says:

    I would love to keep buying real books but I have no more space whatsoever to keep them! I love my Kindle because I can still have whatever I want and don’t have to worry about where I am going to put them.
    The Kindle also means I can switch to whichever book I am in the mood for without having to do any advance planning! 🙂

  16. Pingback: WIPpets, Light and Wonder, and Thirteen Helmets | regimcclain

  17. Pity publishers don’t bring down the price of Ebooks, they are still overpriced. I’ll stick to the library. Wish I could get a magnolia to grow in my garden.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Bill. I’m glad the magnolia grows in mine 🙂

      Hopefully in time the prices of the back catalogues will fall and they will be realistic. They are being short sighted

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