Canadian book sales were down significantly in the vital fall and Christmas season of 2010, according to BookNet Canada’s fourth quarter report. The market was down 5.6% in the number of books sold and 6.2% in dollar value. BookNet CEO Noah Genner attributed the drop to both e-book sales and economic conditions, but in his estimation e-book sales were a larger factor than the economy.
“What we’re hearing out of the U.S. is that 10% or 12% of sales are moving to e. I don’t think we’re anywhere near that number in Canada just because of the [fewer] number of [eretail] players here but we do know that the percentage is definitely going up. And Christmas was a big time because so many people got ebook readers.
Although most of the major e-retailers are now present in Canada, Genner said that Apple was not a big player during the 2010 fourth quarter. BookNet does not track e-book sales, but Genner said that anecdotally he hears that Kindle does “fairly well” in Canada but “I don’t think they are nearly as big here as Kobo is.” Kobo is the e-retailer largely owned by the Canadian book chain giant Indigo, which launched its own e-reader in 2010.
The other reason Q4 numbers were down in the year over year comparisons, Genner said was that 2009 was a good year for both fiction and juvenile categories. “Twilight books were still impacting things greatly and the start of Stieg Larsson. Although, this year Stieg Larsson was really our only breakaway hit, and still the numbers for that title were not like the other ones. Nothing is quite like Twilight.”
2010 was missing that kind of blockbuster, and as a result, fiction was down 7.5% in the number of books sold and 10.2% in dollar value. YA was down 8.3% in volume and 10.4% in dollars.
Nonfiction was the only category that was up slightly, 0.7% in the number of books sold and 1% in dollars, but Genner said that was because 2009 was basically flat in nonfiction, so the category did not drop in 2010 as the fiction and juvenile categories did.
BookNet Canada’s national book sales tracking system is based on year-over-year sales figures from a fixed panel of 665 book retailers across Canada.