While the recent boom in e-books and e-readers may have been good news for book loving Brits, some fear that the fate of the tradional printed book may be at stake as a result. However, as the nation’s thoughts turn to literature in time for World Book Day (3 March) and Night (5 March), latest research from Mintel reveals that despite the fact that one in five (18%) consumers now claim to read e-books, nearly half of Brits (49%) say they would rather read and own actual books – showing a promising future for the printed book market.

Nearly nine in ten (88%) consumers read or listen to books, despite the development of competing audio-visual technologies during the past 25 years. In addition, nearly half of Brits (42%) say that books are an ‘essential part’ of their life and a further 43% say that when they find an author they like they try to read all their titles. Almost two fifths of book readers (37%) say they “really enjoy”browsing in bookshops and specialist chain bookstores are still the most popular outlet for books in the UK, accounting for around two fifths of sales in value terms.

However, the overall market for e-books has shot up as e-book readers become more accessible. Indeed, before Christmas 2010, ownership of e-readers stood at around 8% of adult book readers, while 5% owned a tablet PC. There is also considerable future demand for e-reader devices, with 40% of book readers saying they would consider buying one in the future and 44% saying they would consider buying a tablet PC. But it seems the male/female divide is evident when it comes to book type, with readership of actual books standing at 83% male and 93% female – this compares to 21%/15% for e-books. Mintel’s research also revealed a consumer expectation to pay less for e-books than their printed equivalent, with nearly half (48%) of consumers saying they expect to pay less and just one in five (19%) saying they expect to pay the same. Some 7% of Brits say they expect to pay less then £3, with 28% thinking it should be between £3-£5.99.

Michael Oliver, Senior Leisure Analyst at Mintel, said:

” our research shows that readers still have strong affection for print books and it seems that they are not going to be totally replaced any time soon. Instead, e-books are drawing a younger, more male audience into book reading, rather than cannibalising sales from older females who are the most regular readers. Growth in e-book sales has been driven by a steady increase in the ownership of devices on which they can be read, such as e-readers and tablet PCs but also mobile phones, laptops and PCs. However, it seems consumers have strong affection for the printed version, which isn’t going to be totally replaced any time soon. “

And it seems that many Brits may well be celebrating World Book Day in bed – as the most popular place for Britons to read is in bed, with over half of all book readers (87%) saying they do so on a regular basis. The next most popular place is on holiday (84%), in the living room (78%) and while commuting/travelling (64%). Meanwhile, over half (58%) say they regularly read in the garden, 42% while they are waiting to meet someone and 41% when outdoors. Meanwhile the toilet (37%) and the bath (33%) make up the remaining regular reading places.

The overall market value for book sales stands at £3.3 billion in 2010, down from £3.4 billion in 2009. However, the segmented book market has suffered mixed fortunes in recent years. Sales of fiction increased by 4% between 2005 and 2010, from 125 million books in 2005 to 130 million in 2010. Meanwhile, sales of non-fiction/reference have declined as a result of the popularity of the Internet. Accounting for 29% of all book sales in 2010, sales of non-fiction and reference books have declined a significant 8% over the same five year period declining from 142 million in 2005 to 131 million in 2010.

“Fiction books have outperformed the total market, reflecting a continued appetite on the part of consumers for books that will help them escape for a while. After a period where Harry Potter provided the industry with a very high profile, 2009 and 2010 have seen authors like Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer and Stieg Larsson taking over the baton. In contrast reference titles such as encyclopedias have suffered as consumers turn to technology such as Internet searches to find the information they are looking for. “Michael continues.

Meanwhile, it seems younger readership figures are going from strength to strength. In fact, the vast majority – 98.4% – of young people aged 7-10 read a book in 2010, up from 97% in 2006. As well as a greater proportion reading books, they are also reading more books each year – between 2006 and 2010, the number of 7-10 year olds reading more than 20 books a year increased a significant 11 percentage points from 26% in 2006 to 36% in 2010.

Finally, highlighting the importance of libraries after recession, nearly one in five (17%) Brits say they visit public libraries more often now than a year ago.

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