Review of 2014 Australian book sales

Books+Publishing in conjunction with Publishing Perspectives have published their annual guide to the Australian book market, Think Australian 2015. The review offers some interesting perspectives and you can browse the full magazine here.

Data on the health of Australian publishing and bookselling continues to be limited by the lack of availability (or lack of will to compile and release) ebook publishing and sales statistics. Even when ebook sales are taken into account, it is abundantly clear that the only ebooks that are taken into account in the discussions reported by Think Australia 2015 are those that are:

  1. Published by traditional publishers, AND
  2. Have a paperback equivalent

Even digital first imprints like Escape and Momentum, which are housed within traditional publishing groups, do not appear to be accounted for. Certainly indie publishers are not taken into account, and they would make up the bulk of ebook sales, as shown by Bookscan sales data which reports that 3,815 different publishers produced 20,877 new titles in 2014. Publishers and titles are more reliably tracked thanks to ISBN requirements.

Adding fuel to the fire of my observations regarding how flawed and useless statistics on book sales are without a reliable measurement tool for ebook sales, Bookscan reports that 44% of the books bought by Australians in 2014 were non-fiction, 31% were children’s books and only 24% were fiction. Huh?!!!!! I find it hard impossible to believe that nonfiction book sales are double that of fiction sales. The sceptic inside my head is bellowing, ‘Lies, lies and statistics,’ and, ‘Codswallop’, as well as a few less polite terms.

Bookscan’s own sales data contradicts these statistics. As indicated by the Australian bestsellers table below, published in Think Australian 2015, the top 20 fiction titles outsold the top 20 non-fiction titles by 150,000 copies, or close on 20%. (Click on the image to enlarge it).


Australian adult fiction and non fiction bestsellers ThinkAustralian2015


So … what is an author to make of all this? Keep your chin up, your fingers twinkling over the keyboard and your marketing fresh. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. There is insufficient proof that they know what they are talking about.


Leave a comment


  1. Recipe books (like Jamie Oliver and Nigella) are incredibly popular, as are the new fad colouring in books (although I’m not sure if they were out in big numbers in 2014) and then there are all the biographies of sportsmen and politicians. And the WW1 books were a huge hit last year. All these books would sell well as print books — often for gifts — and they’re less likely to be bought in e book form.

  2. PS, I hadn’t seen your chart when I wrote my comment. LOL.

  3. Hi Barbara, you raise a good point about the colouring books. They’ve been bigger this year than last, but they were still popular. They are included in the bestseller lists this year, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t have been in the 2014 lists. Having said that, I remember when map books used to dominate ‘book’ sales. They never appeared in the bestseller lists but they were probably been part of the count somewhere.


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