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Conference pair

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It was a gorgeous spring day today, and Kate and Camilla were off to the corner of St James’s Park, where the crocuses were blooming, for the annual Books and The Consumer Conference. There was lots of interesting stuff said, but the overall message for books was a sobering one: the number of books bought, and the amount of money paid for them (both the average price and the total amount of money spent) decreased in 2009 compared to 2008. The percentage of people in the 15,000 sample who’d bought a book dropped to 56%, though the number of books bought by people who had bought books had increased. Steve Bohme of Book Marketing Ltd, who gave the main presentation, pointed out that books had done less badly than other entertainment products sold in physical form, like DVDs, computer games and CDs (the growth in download sales doesn’t compensate for the loss of revenue on music in physical form).

On the bright side, this was another conference at which the industry considered its digital future, raising all the challenges of staff recruitment, piracy and high costs of devices that any discussion of books and digital involves. A presenter from the US, Kelly Gallagher, reminded us that ebooks currently represent just 3% of the market there, but also pointed out how young the market was, with 34% of the people who said they’d bought an ebook in a survey conducted in November 2009 saying they’d bought their first ebook within the previous 6 months. We felt glad, certainly, that Nosy Crow has an apps dimension.

Another good news story was that the number of children’s books bought increased between 2008 and 2009. This was true even after Stephanie Meyer sales were subtracted: Meyer’s titles are classified as children’s books, even thought they are bought more for young women (17 – 34) than for any other group and people under 17 represent a relatively small part of her audience. The increase was across both fiction and non-fiction, with picture books and early learning (at one end of the age-range spectrum) and horror (remember the Meyer books) and science fiction/fantasy (at the other end of the age-range spectrum) performing perticularly well. Money spent on books bought for children had also increased. Again, we felt pretty chipper that Nosy Crow is a children’s book publisher.

Today’s photo was taken at the conference and is of Camilla with Dawn Burdett (who did a cracking presentation on the Simon and Schuster campaign for The White Queen) and the great Steve Bohme himself, who once again contrived to make statistics – some of them gloom-inducing ones – comprehensible and entertaining.

Oh, and, if you haven’t done it already, please do our Who’s your favourite illustrator survey

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