← back to all news Printed book sales rise for fourth consecutive year
Yes, we know it‘s not newspapers but this is a hoorah for print: Statistics from UK book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan show that the print book market in the UK grew 2.1% in value and 0.3% in volume in 2018, the fourth annual increase for the sector.
In total, 190.9m books were sold last year, for £1.63bn. The Bookseller magazine said this was up £34m on 2017. Volume also increased, although more marginally, with an extra 627,000 books sold last year.
Becoming was the most valuable title of the year, according to the Bookseller: taking £7.7m in sales, it topped the charts for four consecutive weeks and took the Christmas No 1. But it was not the year’s bestselling book: Becoming was outsold in the non-fiction market by Adam Kay’s memoir about life as a junior doctor, This Is Going to Hurt, and by 2018’s overall top seller, Gail Honeyman’s debut novel Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.
The Bookseller’s editor Philip Jones said the growth was “another glitch in the eye of those pundits who thought physical books would go the way of the CD, DVD or even vinyl. The turnaround at Waterstones – once owned by HMV of course – and the continuing success of the smaller chains such as Blackwell’s, Daunt and Foyles, and the large numbers of independent bookshops shows how the high street might yet be saved by proper customer-centric retailing.”
He identified Trump as the major trend in non-fiction, with the year bookended by Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury and Becoming. In fiction, he said, so-called “up-lit” – uplifting fiction – was “the counterpoint to the wider gloom”, led by Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.
The Nielsen figures do not include ebooks and audiobooks, and Jones said he expected that both of these sectors had also grown over the last year, “particularly the audiobook market, which is really on the charge”.
“When you consider the Nielsen-measured print-book market alongside all those bits of the sector we do not have numbers for – including direct sales, sales though bargain bookstores or the discount supermarkets, the secondhand market, plus digital – it is pretty clear that the book is the unassailable leader of the entertainment pack,” he said.
Literary agent Jonny Geller responded to the news on Twitter: “We punch well above our weight as an industry and cultural light and must continue to invest in writers and writing. Believe in the power of books.”
He told the Guardian that he had been struck by the range of bestsellers in 2018: “Publishing is a great shop window of one of this country’s greatest exports – creativity. We tend to underestimate the power of our writers internationally as more UK-originated material becomes TV and films and dominates bestseller lists abroad.
“Print sales underpin publishers’ profits, so let’s hope they use that to invest in new and innovative voices in 2019 – and share the newfound spoils with the writers in a flourishing audio sector.”