July sees first growth for book market in nine months
04.08.10 | Catherine Neilan and Philip Stone


July saw the UK’s first positive month of sales since September 2009, when Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol (Transworld) broke an otherwise uninterrupted downward slide lasting 13 months.

Prior to September, the market has taken a sales hit every month as far back as May 2009, when it saw a growth of 2.6% to £105m. This has left the market more than £50m, or 2.9%, down year-to-date compared with the same 52 week period in 2008/9.

But, according to Nielsen Bookscan data, this trend stopped in July, when the market was up 0.1% year-on-year. Total book spend reached £121.2m, which compares favourably to the 5.5% decline for the first 26 weeks of the year.

Sales through BookScan’s GRM, which is a good measure of high street bookshop performance, although it includes both Asda and Tesco store sales, were up 0.6% year-on-year in the four weeks to 31st July, which suggests bricks and mortar bookshops may have had a better month than their online counterparts.

Once again, this was thanks to Brown, whose paperback edition of The Lost Symbol accounted for £930,156, or 0.8%, of total sales. Another major contributor to the month was Stieg Larsson, whose Millenium Trilogy accounted for £1.57m, or 1.4% of books sold.

Alongside this Brown and Larsson-boosted fiction sector, other genres that enjoyed strong sales in July include economics – thanks principally to the popularity of Dubner and Levitt’s Freakonomics titles and Andrew Sorkin Ross’ Too Big to Fail; history – thanks to Bill Bryson’s At Home; and humour – led by Danny Wallace and Jeremy Clarkson.

Art too has enjoyed solid sales thanks largely to Andrew Graham-Dixon’s Caravaggio, while the popularity of dark romance, by authors such as L J Smith, has driven young adult fiction sales year on year.

Conversely, the travel guides and travel literature genres continue to struggle in 2010, while sales within the true crime, popular science, and children’s non-fiction sectors were also down year on year over the four-week period.

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