Sports book readers taking to digital age as boom in e-books makes up for slump in print sales

Sales of printed books fell by nearly 5 per cent last year with a corresponding rise in e-book downloads as more readers embraced the idea of getting their reading fix via the digital format.

With e-readers flying off the shelves in the run-up to Christmas, data from Neilsen BookScan pointed to a decline of £74m in sales of conventional books.

The Bookseller reckoned that physical book sales in the final week of 2012 were down 70 per cent compared with the last week of 2011.

E-books now account for around 14 per cent of the total market, a rise of five per cent on last year, although the trend towards selling e-books at a fraction of the printed book price led to a fall in the total value of the book market in 2011.

Novels remain the big sellers in the digital market, led by E L James's erotic '50 Shades' trilogy, which sold close to 11 million copies in 2012 for £47.3 million, displacing J K Rowling’s 2007 record of £42.6m.

According to the Daily Telegraph, e-readers and tablets such as the Nook, the iPad Mini and Kindle Fire, which can also play films and TV programmes, enjoyed a 45 per cent increase in sales compared with last Christmas, at John Lewis stores.

E-books are gaining popularity in the sports book market.  Among the top 20 bestselling sports titles currently listed by Amazon, 12 are in digital format.

Clare Balding's My Animals and Other Family is the largest-selling e-book among Amazon's current bestsellers, closely followed by the Bradley Wiggins autobiography My Time.  Both have been selling well in printed form too.

The same titles top the WH Smith sports chart.  Indeed, they are outselling all non-fiction e-books with Smiths, pushing Miranda Hart into third place.

E-book popularity is not necessarily a reflection of what the book-buying public is going for in the traditional format.  For example, veteran producer Peter Baxter's collection of Test Match Special anecdotes Can Anyone Hear Me? and former Leicestershire and England wicketkeeper Paul Nixon's autobiography Keeping Quiet have attracted a healthy number of digital readers but do not figure among the top 100 bestsellers in printed editions, although the current prices of the Kindle editions surely has a lot to do with that.  Can Anyone Hear Me? is retailing in Kindle format at 99p compared with £16.99 in hardback!

Amazon's current top 10 bestselling ebooks are listed in the right-hand column of this page.

Visit the Kindle bestsellers page at The Sports Bookshelf Shop



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