But young readers point the route to the future
E-book sales accounted for 23% of unit sales in the first six months of 2014, according to Nielsen Books & Consumer’s latest survey of the nation’s book-buying behavior. Paperback remained the most popular format in the first half of the year, with a 42% share of unit sales. Hardcover’s share of units was just ahead of e-books, accounting for 25% of unit purchases.
Within the trade book category, adult fiction and the young adult categories both saw e-books take a 30% share of unit sales in the first half of 2014. E-books have been a significant part of adult fiction sales since the format first gained traction, but became a bigger part of the young adult category in 2012 with the success of the Hunger Games trilogy and related films. In 2014, the format has benefited from strong e-book sales in the Divergent series as well as John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. E-book sales represented only 22% of unit sales in the adult nonfiction category in the six-month period and 13% of children’s sales, excluding young adult.
And romance is another driver
Among some of the major book categories, e-tailers’ share varied from a low of 25% of units in the children’s category to a high of 47% in the romance category. The high market share of romance sales through e-commerce sites no doubt reflects the higher percentage of romance titles that are bought as e-books. YA was the bestselling category at chains, while mysteries and adult nonfiction were tops at independent bookstores.
While bookstores are still hugely important
In the first half of 2014, 12% of book buyers said that they learned about the titles they purchased through in-store displays, pointing to the important role that bookstores play in discovery. The second most widely reported discovery method was similarly low-tech: 10% of consumers said that they heard about the books they purchased from friends and relatives. And 8% of the book buyers surveyed said that they discovered the titles they purchased by browsing the websites of online retailers.