With a UK leaning. Firstly, UK libraries are looking rather vulnerable at the moment:
Campaigners have warned that there are just “six weeks to save the public library service” with more than 330 libraries now at risk of closure.
It is estimated around 1,000 libraries will be threatened with closure next year, out of 4,500 nationally. Campaigner Desmond Clarke said there were six weeks to save the service before councils finalise their budgets in February.
But although spending at UK booksellers last week was much higher than the weather-afflicted week ending 4th December (when spending was down 18.4%, or £11.4m year-on-year), the recovery was not large enough to drag book sales into positive year-on-year territory.
Christmas is huge for bookselling. In the general shopping period of this time of year, the bulk of the industry’s sales are made. Admittedly, these sales are swayed massively by gift books – the usual crap you find by the tills or on ‘humour’ tables, and during recessions or hardship these tended to be the ones people stopped buying because of the very transient readership. Genres like SF, Fantasy, Crime – I’d be interested to see their end-of-year stats broken down.
Yet it seems that ebooks are growing.
E-books accounted for 5% of Hachette’s total sales in the fourth quarter of this year, the publisher’s c.e.o. has said.
In a letter to authors dominated by digital issues, Tim Hely Hutchinson said e-books were now a “significant” part of Hachette’s business. He said in the United States, e-book sales had been tripling year on year, from 1% of total sales in 2008 to 9% this year. He said: “Our market in Britain and the Commonwealth is not far behind and, actually, I would not be surprised if the British and Australian markets were to end up with a higher percentage of ebook sales than that of the USA.”
Too early to tell where these sales are coming from, or if they’re cannibalising physical copies, but it’s certainly a silver-lining. I’ve heard mutterings that in the US hardcovers are down massively and ebooks are up – and they’re possibly taking the hardcover sales. This always surprises me, because I thought the hardcover readers were the collectors, but they’re possibly just the early adopters of literature instead. If that is the case, you can see why publishers want to resist lowering their prices.