eBook Sales Fell 4% in the UK in 2016, and Other Context-Free Factoids

I finally got a copy of last week’s press release for Nielsen UK’s consumer survey report.

As expected, the publicly available data is so sparse as to be meaningless. A better source would be The Guardian, which looked at the data Nielsen UK is selling and revealed the following factoids:

  • More than 360m books were sold in 2016 – a 2% jump
  • UK consumers spent an extra 6%, or £100m, on books (print and digital)
  • Physical bookstores saw a 4% rise in purchases across the UK
  • Sales through shops increased 7% in 2016
  • eBook sales fell 4% in the UK in 2016

Given the lack of detail, that is still rather useless. But all of the data did come from a consumer survey, not industry sources, so even though it is vague it can still be trusted.

Here’s the press release:

Meanwhile, the findings confirmed that purchases of e-books declined, with consumers buying four per cent fewer in 2016, a trend which coincides with a slowing in the growth of device ownership, and price rises on e-books. In addition, multi-function devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, overtook dedicated e-reading devices as the most commonly used devices for e-reading, with a 48-44 per cent split respectively.

The Nielsen Books & Consumers survey also delivered good news for the British high street, with a four per cent rise in book volume purchases through physical stores, compared to flat online sales. But despite that, online retailers continued to grow their market share of the print market with a one per cent rise from 31 per cent to 32 per cent of volume purchases.

The fastest growing categories were Non-Fiction (+5%) and Children’s print books (+3%) with genres such as self-help, humour, cookery, history and crime all reporting growth. In contrast, biographies, popular fiction and literary fiction reported consecutive year decreases in purchases.

image by bisgovuk

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. […] The Digital Reader påpekar att informationen i Guardianartikeln är baserad på en enkät, inte på faktiska försäljningssiffror, och dessutom är ganska vag. […]

  2. Mark21 April, 2017

    As this is a survey and not actual data, what are the confidence intervals on the values. ie is how certain it is ebbols doen by 4% oir between -10% and +2%.

    1. Nate Hoffelder25 April, 2017

      While no data source is perfect, I trust a survey more than “actual data”. The latter would exclude large chunks of the industry, while this tries to describe consumer behavior. It might be a flawed description but at least it doesn’t ignore parts of the industry.


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