The market for e-books rocketed during 2010 owing to the proliferation of tablets and e-book reader devices in consumer and business circles, according to new figures from The Publishers Association.
The report shows that sales of digital books are now worth £180m, and that consumer sales quadrupled from £4m to £16m over the year, although academic and professional books still account for the bulk of sales at 72 per cent (£129m).
These figures make up just six per cent of the £3.1bn spend on books within the UK overall, but the increase in digital sales underlines the growing use of tablets such as the iPad and e-reading devices and applications like the Kindle and Sony Reader, by consumers and business professionals.
Richard Mollet, chief executive of The Publishers Association, said that, while academic publishing continues to dominate owing to its early adoption of digital technology, the rise devices providing this option to consumers is changing the market.
"Now that technology is putting e-reading devices into consumers' hands, we are starting to see the rapid growth of digital sales in this area too, as consumer publishers develop digital formats to reach wider audiences," he said.
Export sales increased by four per cent to £1.25bn, representing 40 per cent of total revenues, and Mollet, previously head of the BPI which fiercely backed the Digital Economy Act, said that this underlined the need for strong copyright law.
"The innovation in the digital marketplace and the strength of British publishers' export performances is only possible because of the robust and flexible copyright framework which underpins the UK creative industries," he said.
"Copyright ensures that authors, writers and researchers get rewarded for their talent and expertise, and that the publishers who support them see a return on their investment - particularly in their digital infrastructure."
The figures are based on two surveys, one covering publishers accounting for some 77 per cent of all book sales in the UK, and the second for around 70 per cent of all physical book sales.
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