Book sales expected to smash £2 billion barrier - but e-books less popular

Britain remains a nation of bookworms with sales forecast to smash through the £2 billion barrier for the first time this year.

And people still prefer print to electronic books, according to a new report.

Sales of books and e-books combined are estimated to surpass £2 billion in 2017, a four per cent increase on last year.

But sales of e-books are predicted to take a tumble for the first time this year, according to the report by consumer analysts Mintel.

Researchers found more than two-thirds of book, e-book and audiobook buyers (69 per cent) are prepared to pay more than £6 for a hardback book, but only one in six (16 per cent) would spend more than £6 on an e-book.

The study suggests Brits still prefer print, with sales of physical books forecast to rise by six per cent this year to £1.7 billion.

But while the e-book market has grown year-on-year since Mintel began measuring the market - from £216 million in 2012 to £339 million in 2016, sales are forecast to dip by one per cent in 2017 to £337 million.

Sales of print books are forecast to grow by 25 per cent in the next five years to reach £2.1 billion, according to Mintel, while e-books will see only marginal year-on-year increases to reach £383 billion in 2022.

Rebecca McGrath, senior media analyst at Mintel, said: “The print book revival continues as consumers, young and old, appear to have established a new appreciation for this traditional format.

“Consumers are placing growing value on physical goods in a digital world.

“In contrast to the print market, the e-book market remains stagnant and it appears that e-books are set to remain a fairly niche part of the market, contrary to early predictions that the format would begin to dominate.”

The report suggests that, overall, Brits are more likely to have their head in a physical book than a digital one.

While almost two-thirds (62 per cent) have bought a book in the last 12 months, more than half (54 per cent) bought a print book. In comparison, less than one in four (24 per cent) has bought any digital book and 21 per cent bought any e-book.

Four out of five five (80 per cent) who have bought books, e-books or audiobooks in the past year say they “prefer to buy print versions of books they’re very interested in”.

Two-thirds (65 per cent) say that “shopping at bookshops encourages them to buy books on impulse”.

But there is interest among readers for books to branch out into new formats, with 23 per cent saying they’re interested in buying ‘enhanced’ e-books.

Ms McGrath said: “The strong preference people have to own print versions of the books they are most interested in solidifies the notion that e-books are principally bought for more ‘disposable’ content.

“If e-books are viewed as disposable or less valuable then it limits the growth we can expect from the market.

“E-book publishers have to convince the most interested readers of the value of owning digital versions rather than print.

“Enhanced e-books, that include extra content, audio and graphics, appear to be the best way of achieving this as this special content can help convince fans that they will be missing out by not owning a digital edition.”

Overall,almost three out of four people (74 per cent) have read or listened to a book in the last 12 months, with 62 per cent having read a physical print book, 18 per cent have read a book on an e-reader and six per cent have listened to an audiobook.

When it comes to reading locations, 94 per cent of physical book readers did so in their home, while 43 per cent have done so on holiday and 24 per cent when travelling or commuting.

Thirty per cent of e-book readers have read them while commuting, while 43 per cent have done so on holiday and 74 per cent at home.

Ms McGrath added: “In such a connected world many people increasingly value time when they can get away from screens.

“When it comes to print readers, many value the chance to enjoy some digital-free time at home.

“As lives and homes becomes even more connected and digitally-focused, the rare moments one can ‘switch off’ will likely become even more highly regarded, helping further cement the importance of print books in people’s lives.”

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