English-language book sales down in US and UK, up elsewhere
02.03.10 | Philip Jones
The UK and US were the only major English-language books markets to sell fewer books in 2009 than in 2008, according to Nielsen BookScan. Despite the worldwide recession, booksellers in Australia, Ireland, and South Africa all saw the number of books sold grow. Where there was a decline in the market, it was steepest in trade non-fiction, according to the market data.
The figures, collected from the tills of 33,500 retailers worldwide, showed that the US faced the biggest decline in volume sales, down 3.3% with 751.1m books sold, with the UK down 0.5% to 235.6m. Australia saw the largest growth up 5.8% to 64.8m, while Ireland saw growth of 4.4% to 14.5m. South Africa also witnessed marginal growth in book sales, up 0.4% to 12.6m.
Fiction was healthy in the UK and US with growth of 1.2% in the UK and 2.7% in the US. Fiction also accounts for a significant portion of the growth in Ireland and Australia, increasing by 7.3% and 9.2% respectively. Over the Christmas peak period, titles from established authors such as James Patterson and John Grisham dominated sales, according to Nielsen. There was also Dan Brown, which provided a boost for fiction sales worldwide from September.
Trade non-fiction accounted for more than a third of most English-language book markets. In the UK there was a decline of 5% and in the US 4.4%. But not all areas were affected: political, historical and economic categories saw growth across all markets and particularly in Ireland. As extensively reported before Christmas, biographies performed less well than in previous years.
Atlases Maps and Travel continued to be pressured by internet resources and satellite navigation systems, in addition to recessionary consumer confidence affecting travel generally, Nielsen said.
Children’s and in particular young adult fiction saw steady growth, driven by the influx of vampire novels and picture books. Overall in Australia the children’s category grew 14% year-on-year and in the US by 2.3%. Even without the Stephenie Meyer phenomenon the children’s market was up in most countries.