At last we get some clear statistics on ebook sales in the UK, from the Publishers Association. Journalists have jumped on the headline figure, but that figure lumps together downloaded audio book sales with straight ebook sales — nevertheless, there has been a 20% rise for all types of digital book-based products, to £180m in 2010. Academic and professional books lead the field, with 70% of e-sales. 20% is a comparatively low level of increase, given the release of the Kindle 3 and the iPad — I have to wonder if book piracy among professionals and undergrads was keeping it lower than otherwise in 2010?
As for Kindle fiction, keep in mind that the PA are only measuring sales from the big publishers — not the indie presses that have been doing well with fiction on the Kindle. Nearly one third of the UK industry isn’t a member of the Publishers Association, and some ebook per-publisher sales figures may be dubious. But the “general consumer market” is judged to have quadrupled in 2010, with possibly about £6m of sales for e-fiction. Add on all the indies and self-publishers, and you might currently have a UK market for fiction ebooks and downloadable audio books of around £10m a year in sales. That’s still fairly small compared to the U.S. ebooks market. And puny compared to the whole of the UK book market sales, which topped £3.1 billion in 2010.