Physical book sales: changes 2008-10, just prior to the eBook upheaval

This graph shows unit book sales through all significant retail channels, across three years of financial crisis and sector changes.  It speaks volumes:

Confessions first: I cut and pasted the graph from the Nosy Crow blog, who in turn credited it to Book Marketing Ltd’s Books and Consumers report.  It’s a simple graph, showing rises and falls where you’d expect to see them.  It’s useful to apply some maths to the graph:

In the three years covered by the table, total unit sales fell by 7m.  Chain bookshops and indies each lost over a quarter of their volumes, whereas internet-only retailers increased theirs by over one third.  Supermarkets were pretty flat, and bargain books were (I assume) boosted by the recession and the turnaround at The Works.

Here are the same stats expressed as percentages of the total market.  You’ll recall the Competition Commission enquiry of 2006, when Waterstone’s acquired Ottakars, and had to demonstrate market share of no more than 25%.  At the end of 2010, the whole chain sector was worth just 30% of the market – and that was before the closure of BBS, and Waterstone’s estate-trimming, started to take effect.

Judging from the terminology, Waterstone’s and WH Smith’s online sales are included in their chain totals.  Given that assumption, will 2011 be the year when Amazon’s physical book sales exceed those of all the chains added together?  And, by extension, will 2012 see Amazon beating the combination of chains plus indies?

And as the headline says, this is the 3rd August 1914 picture, immediately prior to eBooks arriving on market, en masse…

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