Sunday 26 May 2019

Books like Paul O'Connell's 'The Battle' help print sales surge to highest in five years

Paul O'Connell Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Paul O'Connell Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Book publishers saw double-digit sales growth in Ireland last year as print title sales continue to accelerate after years of decline.

Thanks to the success of titles such as Paul O'Connell's 'The Battle', book sales in Ireland hit €131m in 2016, the highest level of revenue recorded since 2011.

According to new figures from Nielsen BookScan, individual book sales rose 9pc to 11 million over the last 12 months, while their value rose by 11pc. The average selling price of a book rose to €12, its highest level since 2007.

Penguin Random House came out strongest in the Irish market, with €29.3m in sales and a market share of 22.3pc. Hachette was next most successful publisher with €17.1m (13.1pc market share), followed by HarperCollins with €9.1m in sales (7pc market share). Pan Macmillan sold €5.9m of books here in 2016 while local publisher Gill Group achieved a 4.2pc market share with €5.5m in sales.

In the Irish market, two books - JK Rowling's latest Harry Potter novel and Paul O'Connell's biography, written with Limerick journalist Alan English - grossed over €1m in Irish sales. With his first novel, 'Holding', Graham Norton had the third best-selling book of the year, while children's author and comedian David Walliams had two entries in the top 10.

Overall, the Nielsen figures show that home-grown Irish books are taking more of the market here, with 24.3pc of the sales, or €31.8m.

There has been a resurgence of interest in printed books. Stock image
There has been a resurgence of interest in printed books. Stock image

Six out of 10 local publishers recorded double-digit sales growth in Ireland, with only one (Hachette) seeing a decline.

According to Nielsen, food, diet and health books jumped over 30pc last year thanks to a flurry of celebrity-led titles.

Kids' books continue to become a bigger part of the Irish book world with 31pc of the market, a third more than the adult fiction market.

One of the fastest-growing sales categories was 'specialist non-fiction', which includes business, management and legal books. Local publishers say that the growth in such titles reflects an overall uptake in Ireland's economic fortunes.

Another growth area was humour, showing a 37pc rise in sales. Parody books such as 'Five On Brexit Island' by Bruno Vincent saw large jumps in popularity during the year.

Overall, the trade non-fiction category took 38.7pc of market revenue in 2016 with a slight dip in selling prices.

However, ebook sales in Ireland remained flat over the same period, according to local publishers. Growth in Ireland was higher than the UK, which saw a 2.3pc rise in sales (to 195m new books) and a 5pc rise in value (to £1.6bn) last year.

The news comes as Pearson, the media publishing conglomerate that owns a substantial stake in Penguin Random House, says it is to sell its interest in the world's largest book publisher. The Penguin stake may raise as much as €1.38bn, according to analysts. Bertelsmann, the giant German publisher, is an early favourite to buy out the stake.

Pearson combined Penguin with Bertelsmann's Random House in 2013, leaving the British company owning just under half of the venture, which publishes books from writers including John Grisham, Ken Follett and George Martin. In 2015, it generated revenue of €3.7bn.

The German company is open to increasing its stake in Penguin "provided the terms are fair," ceo Thomas Rabe said.

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