The biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has topped the UK book charts in its first week on sale, becoming one of the fastest selling hardback non-fiction books on record. That helped to boost book sales in Britain in a week when the half-term break also gave the children's market some momentum. A total of £32.5m was spent on printed books last week, up 2.9% week-on-week but down £3.4m (9.5%) on the same week last year.
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography sold a total of 37,645 copies in its first week on the shelves, which is good news for publisher Little Brown. Only four hardback biographies have sold more in their opening week since Nielsen Bookscan began keeping records in 1998.
The Jobs book was well ahead of second-placed Guinness World Records, which sold 21,643 copies, and the thriller Don't Blink by James Patterson and Howard Roughan, which shifted 20,242 copies. Of the 50 hardback novels that came out last week, five charted, with John Grisham's The Litigators leading the way on 12,962 copies.
Sales of hardback novels were particularly good, up 5% week-on-week and 7% on the same period last year. Terry Pratchett's Snuff topped the hardback fiction charts, selling 19,567 copies, ahead of Martina Coles' latest offereing The Faithless, which sold 17,466.
Gangsta Granny by David Walliams was the biggest-selling childrens' book in a week when sales of kids' titles rose by 20%. The 11,248 weekly sales figure tops Walliams's previous weekly best of 7,340, which he achieved with Billionaire Boy last year.
But despite the boost provided by the Jobs biog, the non-fiction hardback market is down 20% right though the top 5,000 titles. Only five non-fiction titles sold more than 10,000 copies, and even Jamie Oliver can do little to provide the magic ingredient to boost sales.
Even with the help of his new TV series starting, the accompanying book on Jamie's Great Britain sold just 10,740 copies, some way below the 78,606 his 3-minute meals title sold in the same week last year.
What's becoming clear each time book sales figures are produced is not that the print book is dying out, but that consumers want to read certain kinds of books in certain formats. As the fascination with platform dies down, canny publishers and authors will need to look at tailoring not only what they offer but how they offer it. The days of one size fits all are gone.