back to article E-books get Brits reading more

Sales of e-books are soaring in the UK, but they're not yet completely cannibalising sales of dead tree formats. According to the UK's Publishers' Association (PA) sales of e-book fiction during the first six months of 2012 - before the summer holiday, you'll note - were up 188 per cent on the same period in 2011. Non-fiction …


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  1. Jelliphiish


    many of these were the fifty shades-'o-shite sales?

    how much does it track against sales of e-readers.. like .. say .. a south amerkin large river-based loss leader..

    not that i care a lot, mind. just curious.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: how

      You might as well ask how many books any year were that year's smash #1. The answer is lots... a few years back it would be the latest Harry Potter novel.

      What's your point? Popular stuff sells more?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: how

      "many of these were the fifty shades-'o-shite sales?"

      I'm curious as to whether you have read the books and disliked them, or whether you fall into the camp of those who feel they have to publicly denounce them (and anything else that reaches popularity) without having read them?

      I read them to see what the fuss was about and, although I'm clearly not the target audience, they were alright, they kept me turning the pages. Not as filthy as I had been led to believe, there was plenty of other stuff going on that, while not very believable, was no less believable or entertaining than many books, films and video games for which I would consider myself the target audience.

      1. Dave Bell

        Re: how

        Go read some Dan Brown, and then tell me that it's the ebooks that encourage badly-written fiction.

        What makes Fifty Shades of Grey unusual was that it succeeded as a self-published ebook.

        I've read Kindle books that were terrible, and I doubt they would have ever been printed by a conventional publisher. I've seen stuff that has a very narrow market, but was well-written. The cost of printing is high enough that ebooks are likely the only way they will sell.

        The publishers are using the Kindle store as a slush-pile, trawling for the successes. What might we lose?

        And is there an ebook store that doesn't embroil you in the US tax system? Some of the publishers who come up on a Google search have a questionable history, and they want you to pay them.

    3. Spiracle

      Re: how

      As it said in one of the papers complaining that 'Fifty Shades' is badly written is about as constructive as complaining about the ingredients of a Greggs pasty.

  2. Pooka

    Dear gubbinment


    I suspect that the sales would increase even further if you took the damnable VAT off the ebooks. At the moment I only purchase the books on special offer because I object to paying the 20% government fund increase when I don't have to pay for it on dead-tree specials.

    Kind Regards,


    1. Dave Bell

      Re: Dear gubbinment

      Amazon, for one, do some sneaky and legal stuff to pay much less as VAT. We're not paying anything near 20%, but they let us think we are. Has anyone ever got a VAT invoice out of Amazon?

    2. Craig 2

      Re: Dear gubbinment

      We buy lots of items from Amazon and over half of them come with claimable VAT invoices. on the other hand....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love my Kindle

    Bought almost on a whim to deal with 2 hour train journeys, it's proved a smash hit.

    Especially with a library of free quality (older) books.

    I echo the previous posters comments about VAT. It's a great fact to shut up the greenwash brigade.

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    I'll start buying e-books...

    when either :

    a) they provide the same facilities as physical books (i.e. I can sell them, lend them to friends, give them to Oxfam, can buy them second hand etc) - given that they usually cost the same as physical books, or near as dammit. Also that they can be freely transferred between different formats (moved from Kobo to Kindle or Nook etc).

    or b)

    the price is reduced to about 30% of the cost of the physical book to reflect the reduced features (see above).

    Until then I'll buy new-ish books new or second hand on dead trees, and stick to Guttenberg etc for my e-reader.

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: I'll start buying e-books...

      One problem is that printing is rather less expensive that we think. And the expensive stuff such as copy-editing is the same, whatever the format.

      1. Eponymous Cowherd
        Thumb Down

        Re: I'll start buying e-books...

        "And the expensive stuff such as copy-editing is the same, whatever the format."

        Were that they put as much effort into proof reading and quality control. The one "premium" e book I bought (for over £9) was full of formatting errors and typos. It, honestly, looked like they had just OCR'd the paper version.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'll start buying e-books...

          Indeed. I made the mistake of buying a few mainstream books from Kobo eBook store for a not insignificant price. They were riddled with OCR errors. It was obvious that no one had ever proof read the books, even once, after they had been scanned.

          I fed this back to Kobo, but they were not interested, and refused to refund me for the shoddy junk they tricked me into buying.

          Why is it content publishers (DVD, CD, books) think quality does not matter when it comes to e-Merchandise but still happy to charge a premium for the often reduced "license" the consumer receives. And they wonder why BitTorrent is so popular?

    2. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      Re: I'll start buying e-books...


      I do read a quite a lot more now I have my Kindle, but these are always books from lesser known authors and self-published books, as well as classics.

      There is absolutely no way I will pay the price of a "dead tree" hardback (£9+) for an eBook which, as you rightly point out, is of no value whatsoever once you have read it.

      I wonder how the sales of premium eBooks compares to their dead tree counterparts and the cheaper ebooks. I notice that the many of the most popular Kindle books aren't those you would generally find on a book store shelf. I see of the top 20 non-free books on the Kindle store 8 are under £1 and 18 are under £5.

      Incidentally, whatever you think of the writing, 50 shades is £2.69, which is a decently fair price for a bestselling eBook.

      Oh, and I'd fully recommend "The Chronicles of Space Captain Smith" by Toby Frost (£3). Some of the funniest stuff I've read for ages.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I'll start buying e-books...

      the price is reduced to about 30% of the cost of the physical book to reflect the reduced features (see above).

      Not saying I disagree completely with you, but e-books do have extra "features" which dead tree books don't have. Auto book mark, adjustable typeface/type size, search, built-in dictionary/thesaurus, adding notes without damaging the book etc. (yeah, yeah, I know, they are features of the e-reader, not the e-book. But try using those e-reader features with a dead tree book :-) )

      1. Teledamus
        Big Brother

        Re: I'll start buying e-books...

        I agree with all of the points about having real books as apposed to e-bollocks. The other nice thing about a real book is that it does not phone up the bookshop you got it from and let them know what passages you've highlighted.

        Call me old fashioned, but I like my reading matter to be benign.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keeping them cheap helps.

    I've bought plenty of e-books for my kindle because amazon had priced them cheap enough e.g. between 99p and £3 that I was happy to take a punt on an author or subject I wouldn't have bothered with if they'd been the typical £5 to £10 that dead tree books can cost new. I've read books on philosophy, mathematics, history and diverse fiction that I wouldn't have looked at if they'd been dead tree books. When they cost less than a pint then you've almost nothing to lose. So not surprising in some aspects.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Keeping them cheap helps.

      I got my Kobo last February as the price had finally come down to something reasonable and the London commute was getting far too tedious with the Metro and Evenin-stanard. The book reader having the added advantages of being thinner and a lot lighter to lug around (even in its leather case) than all but the thinnest of paperbacks.

      I have read more books in the last 8 months than in the previous 4 to 5 years, some of those have been typical fare at around £5 from big publishing outfits. (I also noticed the prices did drop a little last April/May around the time Apple&SomePublishers got taken to court for price fixing on iTunes.)

      One of the biggest advantages of e-book readers is the availability of free short stories, many from well known authors like Stephen Leather, and to get previews (typically the first chapter or two). This allows you to get a good idea of their writing style and decide if you like it, and whether you like the characters they've created. This is so much better than standing in W.H.Smiths/Waterstones reading the publishers blurb/advertising splashed on the back cover, or the so called (paid for?) reviews in the papers.

      However the best books I have been reading this year came from trying a free book of short stories called "Ice Cracker II". I enjoyed that book a lot and was pleased to find the author had just made the first book of a related series free as well. Since then I have been more than happy to pay the £~3 each for the following 4 books in the series plus "Encrypted". Having just finished book 5 yesterday (it was only released this month), I now have to wait for the final book 6 and "Decrypted" (both due in 2013).

      As the above author is doing self publishing they get to decide what/when to make something free, and decide the price of the rest. I also like the fact when I find an excellent read by self publishing authors, they are getting the bulk of my money, and not some middle men who deemed to give them a break.

      It's worth remembering that J.K. Rowling was rejected by half a dozen or more publishers before one would "take a chance" on an unknown author. How many excellent books have never seen the light because publishers decided it was not fashionable enough. It may also mean that a lot more rubish gets published, but then again, I am certainly not the only person who has purchased a book by a well known author only to find a boring book from someone who had obviously run out of ideas or was 90% padding, but had accepted a nice advance that needed fullfilling.

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