The E-book Calling: July E-Book Ranking

The July e-book ranking, published last week in The Bookseller, shows an e-book market developing, maturing, and becoming, in some ways, familiar.

The most eagerly anticipated digital number was that of The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert (JK Rowling) Galbraith, which over a six-day period in mid-July was the most in-demand book for which print copies were unavailable. JK Rowling was revealed as the true author of the book on Sunday 14th July, with Little, Brown not getting new hardback copies of the title into bookshops until the end of that week.

The e-book racked up 60,000 e-book sales making it by some distance the biggest selling e-book over the period, as far as this ranking is concerned, selling more than the 45,000 copies the hardback managed. Its e-book share of total sales at 57%, was bettered only by four titles in the Top 50. (By contrast paperback sales of The Casual Vacancy, released later that same week, easily outpaced sales of the digital version, by almost five copies to one.)

Of those titles that sold more digitally than in print, the biggest margin was seen on Out of Breath by former self-published writer Rebecca Donovan. It sold 10,000 copies in e-book format, and just 676 as a print title. meaning its e-book market share was a massive 94%. Donovan successfully self-published the first two titles in The Breathing series, with Penguin taking rights in late 2012. It republished the first two titles in November, with the first new title Out of Breath published in July. The e-book success suggests two things: that an e-book audience likes e-books and won't necessarily transfer to print; and that digital word-of-mouth can be a strong driver of sales (just as it can be in the physical world).

Across the whole Top 50 the average e-book to print book marketshare was 35%, down two percentage points on the June average. In June 16 titles had e-book sales that were more than half their total sales across all formats, a feat managed by just 12 books in the July list.

The difference may be informed by release date: the data we've seen so far suggests that comparatively the e-book marketshare is generally highest on hardbacks (76% on Kate Atkinson's Life After Life; 70% on Stephen Leather's True Colours), but lowest on recently released mass-market titles. In total nine-digital editions of books only available in hardback make the Top 50, with an average digital marketshare of 54%. The data suggests that digital demand is greatest when the book is first released, even though that is when the digital price is at its highest.

Based on the ranking data, and an analysis of Nielsen BookData, The Bookseller estimates total e-book sales of 5.8 million, up 2.2% on the previous period. It means the e-book market outpaced print sales, as you'd expect, but perhaps not so much as recent 'Kindle summmers' have suggested it would. But as the market decelerates, it may also be broadening. In June the biggest selling title, Entwined with You, sold 201,000 digital copies, but the lowest selling title that featured on the ranking, The Summer Wedding, sold 5,300. In July the lowest selling title, Rod: The Autobiography, hit sales of 7,200.

The Booksller also, for the first time ever, compiled a combined chart, with the number one title John Grisham's The Racketeer topping that list with an incredibly strong showing (97,000 copies) in print alone.

The e-book ranking takes unit sales direct from publishers, and this month featured sales from Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Endeavour, Igloo, plus more than 110 publishers that are distributed through Faber Factory (including Short Books and Hesperus). It excludes titles that are sold below £2 at any point during the month. Any print data is derived from Nielsen BookScan.

The next e-book ranking covering sales for the four weeks ending 31st August is slated to run in the 27th September issue of The Bookseller. To submit your data for consideration email The Bookseller's charts editor Philip.Stone@bookseller.co.uk

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