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Ebooks on the rise

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The growing popularity of the digital books has been confirmed by new figures out today – though it seems they have yet to make a game-changing dent in the books market.

According to figures from the Publishers Association, UK sales of ‘general titles’ ebooks and audio book downloads rose to £16m in 2010 from £4m the previous year. The category includes novels and consumer titles, but the biggest sellers were academic and professional books, at 72% of all digital sales. Meanwhile, total book sales came in at £3.1bn. Digital books currently make up 6% of the market, according to the figures, published today in the PA Statistics Yearbook 2010.

The Publishers Association says that the popularity of ebooks is growing as consumers take up technology. As yet such technology includes the Amazon Kindle, Sony eReader and book-reading apps for smartphones and tablet computers.

Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said: “Digital publishing is growing at an impressive rate, in whichever part of the sector you choose to look.

“Academic and professional publishing, which embraced digital platforms over a decade ago, continues to lead the field. But now that technology is putting e-reading devices into consumers’ hands we are starting to see the rapid growth of digital sales in this area too, as consumer publishers develop digital formats to reach wider audiences.”

Mollet added: “Parallel to this vibrant performance in digital publishing, the traditional print book market remains hugely popular for the majority of readers, and these figures point to a future of print and digital books co-existing in the marketplace.”

In January this year Amazon revealed that sales of Kindle books had overtaken those of paperbacks for the first time.

But Mintel research released in March showed that while 18% of consumers said they read e-books, 49% would rather read a real book. That appears to be reflected in today’s news that the biggest e-book sellers are academic and professional titles. The same report found that 40% of book readers said they would consider buying an e-book reader in the future while 44% would consider buying a tablet PC.

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