‘Screen fatigue’ sees UK ebook sales plunge 17% as readers return to print

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A tourist in Goa reads an Amazon Kindle – the market leader in ebooks. Photograph: EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

Consumer sales down to £204m last year and are at lowest level since 2011 – when Amazon Kindle sales first took off in UK

Britons are abandoning the ebook at an alarming rate with sales of consumer titles down almost a fifth last year, as “screen fatigue” helped fuel a five-year high in printed book sales.

Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% to £204m last year, the lowest level since 2011 – the year the ebook craze took off as Jeff Bezos’ market-dominating Amazon Kindle took the UK by storm.

It is the second year running that sales of consumer ebooks – the biggest segment of the £538m ebook market, which fell 3% last year – have slumped as commuters, holidaymakers and leisure readers shelve digital editions in favour of good old fashioned print novels.

“I wouldn’t say that the ebook dream is over but people are clearly making decisions on when they want to spend time with their screens,” says Stephen Lotinga, chief exeutive of the Publishers Association, which published its annual yearbook on Thursday.

“There is generally a sense that people are now getting screen tiredness, or fatigue, from so many devices being used, watched or looked at in their week. [Printed] books provide an opportunity to step away from that.”

Sales of consumer ebooks hit a high water mark of £275m in 2014, when they accounted for half of the overall ebook market. The decline in consumer ebooks has been led by a slump in sales of the most popular segment, fiction, which plummeted 16% to £165m last year.

Lotinga says that while there has been an increase in sales of ebooks and subscriptions in non-consumer areas, such as education and academic titles, there are certain types of consumer books people prefer to read in paper format.

Among last year’s biggest sellers were children’s books by JK Rowling (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and David Walliams (The Midnight Gang, The World’s Worst Children), which helped sales of print and digital kids books to soar 16% to £365m. Diet book guru Joe Wicks (Lean in 15) was also a huge hit.

“The titles that sold really well last year did not lend themselves to digital,” says Lotinga. “People prefer to give, or read, children’s books like Harry Potter titles in print, and healthy cooking titles and biographies sell very well in print compared to ebook format.”

Print sales of consumer book titles – fiction, non-fiction and children’s titles – rose almost 9% last year to £1.55bn. The total UK print book market, including non-consumer areas such as journals, rose 8% to a five-year high of £3bn.

“We saw a very marginal increase in overall print sales in 2015, but last year people flocked back to print in droves,” says Lotinga.

Issues with a slowdown in ereaders being bought, linked to the rise of smartphones, has contributed to the decline in ebook popularity and renewed surge in book sales.

“The ubiquity of larger screen smartphones and tablets appears to have impacted the demand for ereaders,” says Richard Broughton, analyst at Ampere. “However, for many consumers the screens on smartphones and tablets are not as conducive to reading, not as comfortable”.

With most Britons now carrying hi-tech, expensive phones many just don’t want to have the extra cost, and potential headache, of carrying and looking after more devices.

“For consumers travelling or on holiday having an additional ereader device to look after is awkward,” says Broughton. “A physical copy of a book is a disposable low-cost entertainment tool. It doesn’t matter if you leave it in your hotel room, on a train or by the swimming pool.”

The issue with consumer ebooks aside the UK book industry is in fine fettle. Total sales of print and digital books and journals climbed 7% to £4.8bn last year, the largest growth since 2007 when digital sales were first included.

Looking purely at the book market total sales rose 6% to £3.5bn, as an 8% rise in print sales outweighed the 3% decline in ebook sales.

Overall digital sales grew 6% to £1.7bn, with academic, professional and educational journals outstripping the fall in ebooks, to account for 35% of total revenues.

Despite this success Lotinga warned that with Europe the largest market for UK books, accounting for 35% of international sales, it is imperative that Theresa May’s Brexit deal protects the publishing industry.

“Whatever the makeup of the new government, they must ensure that any post-Brexit trade settlement it reaches with the EU and other countries reinforces this success,” says Lotinga.

Overseas sales increased 6% last year to £2.6bn, 54% of total revenues.

Author: Mark Sweney
Twitter: @marksweney
Source: https://www.theguardian.com

Ebook Sales Dip Amid a Rising UK Book Market

nielsen_logo_0.JPGBooks sales in the UK rose 6% last year, according to Nielsen data, buoyed by increased purchases of physical books. In the digital realm, ebook sales fell by 4%, but ecommerce expanded its share of the country’s overall book business.

According to Nielsen Book data, announced in time for the start of this week’s London Book Fair, 2016’s gain in overall book sales was helped by a 7% increase in sales of physical books.

Nonfiction and children’s print books were the fastest-growing categories—up 5% and 3%, respectively—but genres like cooking, crime, history, humor and self-help also expanded their sales. Conversely, sales of biographies, literary fiction and popular fiction declined for the second consecutive year.

Ebooks’ falling sales coincided with “a slowing in the growth of [ereader] device ownership and price rises on ebooks,” Nielsen said. Its data also showed that 2016 was the first year in which mobile phones and tablets overtook dedicated ereaders as the most commonly used devices for reading ebooks.

“Much has been said in recent years about ereading cannibalizing the sales of print books, so it is very interesting to see how this trend has reversed and how print is now very much back on the up,” said Jacks Thomas, director of The London Book Fair. “We live in a world where variety is everything and book buyers want to have the luxury of choice—to have access to titles in paperback, hardback, ebook or audiobook format—according to their lifestyle and preference.”

Electronic reading’s novelty appears to be slipping in the UK, according to other sources. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) – UK’s latest annual study of the types of products and services purchased digitally by consumers in Great Britain found the category of books (including ebooks), magazines and newspapers was one of the few to decline in 2016.

The percentage of consumers ages 16 and older polled by ONS in 2016 who said they had made a digital purchase of those products in the previous 12 months was 31%, down from a high of 34% in 2013.

According to Nielsen’s figures, digital sales of books were flat for the year, while book sales at physical stores rose 4%. However, ecommerce’s share of print book sales rose 1 percentage point to 32%.

Author: Cliff Annicelli
Twitter: @Cliff_Annicelli
Source: https://www.emarketer.com

Lower sales tax only for print not for e-books, EU court rules

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A passenger takes a book in a bookstore at Oriente train station in Lisbon, Portugal April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante.

European countries must levy standard rates of sales taxes on digital books and newspapers rather than the reduced levels possible for their printed equivalents due to e-commerce rules, the EU’s top court ruled on Tuesday.

The European Court of Justice was called to interpret EU rules on value-added tax (VAT) after Poland’s commissioner for civic rights questioned whether the system of allowing lower rates only for printed publications was fair.

The court said the rules allowed EU countries to apply reduced VAT rates to printed but not digital publications even though both met the European Parliament’s objective when passing the VAT directive – the promotion of reading.

The court reasoned that the exclusion of reduced rates for digital books was the consequence of a specific VAT regime for e-commerce for which clear and uniform rules needed to apply.

The EU’s 28 member states could therefore not be allowed to apply lower sales tax to e-books.

“(It) would effectively compromise the overall coherence of the measure intended by the EU legislature, which consists in the exclusion of all electronic services from the possibility of a reduced rate of VAT being applied,” the judges said.

The European Commission last year proposed changes to the rules to allow countries to align sales taxes for digital and printed publications, part of a wider plan to give EU states greater powers to set VAT rates.

(Reporting by Waverly Colville; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Susan Thomas)

Author: Waverly Colville
Twitter: @wavecolville
Source: http://www.reuters.com