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Digital book sales are rising fast – while sales of their physical counterparts have fallen only slightly

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Readers are moving quickly to stock up on digital books, new figures suggest. But sales of physical books are falling only slightly, and still make up 87.1% of the market.

Digital book sales rose strongly in the first half of the year, according to figures released today by the Publisher’s Association. But while digital sales rose by 89.1% to £145m between January and July 2012, from £77m at the same time last year, sales of physical books fell by just 0.4%, from £985m to £982m in value and by 3.8% in volume from 260m to 251m.

Fiction was the fastest growing digital category, with the total invoiced value of digital fiction books rose by 188% between January and June this year, the Publisher’s Association’s Sales Monitor showed.

Sales of children’s digital books rose by 171% and digital non-fiction books by 128% in the same period. Overall digital sales of general consumer titles, which includes all three categories, increased from £30m to £84m in the first six months of the year compared to the previous year.

The total value of both digital and non-digital sales increased by 6.1% in January-June 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, leading to revenue of £1.1bn in the first six months of the year. Digital sales accounted for 12.9% of the total value of sales in this period, up from 7.2% last year.

Richard Mollet, chief executive of The Publisher’s Association, said the figures showed British publishing continued to perform despite difficult economic conditions. “In particular,” he said, “the huge increase in digital sales shows how rapidly readers and publishers are embracing e-book reading. Whether books are enjoyed physically or electronically, publishers will continue to invest in exciting authors and titles.

“They can do this because of the stability provided by the UK’s robust and flexible copyright framework. This is why The PA is at the forefront of calls to government to ensure that copyright is not eroded and that creators’ rights are protected and supported online.”

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