Entertainment & Arts

Fifty Shades boosts UK book sales

E L James books
Image caption The Fifty Shades trilogy took the top three spots in the 2012 best-sellers chart

British publishers have reported record sales for 2012, despite the recession and the rise of e-readers.

Total spending on printed and digital books rose 4% to £3.3bn last year, the Publishers Association said.

Digital spending rose by 66% to £411m. But it does not appear to have led to a marked decline for print, with physical book sales down by just 1% at £2.9bn.

EL James's Fifty Shades trilogy were the best-selling titles in 2012, with combined sales of 10.5 million.

The series took the top three spots in the 2012 best-sellers chart, according to figures released by sales tracker Nielsen at the end of the year.

The rise of such e-readers as Amazon's Kindle has sparked a surge in digital sales in recent years. But fears they would kill off physical books have so far proved exaggerated.

Publishers Association chief executive Richard Mollet said the figures proved that publishers had reacted quickly to the changes in the industry and the move towards e-readers.

He said British publishing was "a healthy industry which continues to grow".

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"What publishers were very quick to do [was] to make works available," he told the BBC.

Media captionBBC News joined the Camden Girls Book Group to get their take on Fifty Shades of Grey

"That's the key to succeeding in the digital world - having them capable of being read on any device on any platform.

"That's what readers said they wanted and that's what publishers have been able to provide. It's now the case that a quarter of all fiction is read on e-readers."

Mollet said the Publishers Association was working closely with high street booksellers and would soon launch a scheme to help them overcome challenges in the physical books market.

"At the moment we are concerned that independent book shops are finding it tough. Everybody wants there to be a range of ways of getting books, online and on the high street."

Philip Jones, editor of industry magazine The Bookseller, said shops such as Waterstones were seeing a "rebound" in sales of physical books, thanks to children's and non-fiction areas and the "growing" market of books such as Fifty Shades of Grey.

The 'death' of the physical book was a long way off, he continued, pointing out that physical book sales still made up around 80% of the overall market.

Media captionRichard Mollett from The Publishers Association: "Publishing remains strongly competitive"

"Digital is overtaking it in some areas but not all areas, so I think the physical book is going to be with us for a long time," he told the BBC.

"The premium physical book, the £20 hardback... attracts a certain type of person who wants to keep that book on their shelves."

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