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Whilst the industry continues to hold its share of consumer attention with modest growth reported in 2020, competition from other forms of entertainment including streamed content is still a challenge for the industry. The total Australian books market was worth A$2 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow modestly to A$2.1 billion by 2025. We forecast a CAGR of 1.1 percent based on the mid-point forecast scenario.
Printed books provided a reprieve to lockdown boredom, which saw online sales increase.
Although physical bookstores (particularly those in major shopping centres) struggled during the pandemic, online sales of printed books increased slightly during 2020, driven by the need for consumers to escape from the boredom of lockdowns. Booktopia, the country’s largest online bookseller, reported a 39 percent annual increase in total units shipped - a record of 4.2 million orders - during the half year ending 31 December 2020.1
A surprisingly popular genre was travel, albeit domestic, inspiring local wanderlust for Australians to explore their backyard whilst international borders are closed. In addition to the restriction on international travel, recent advertising campaigns such as Tourism Australia’s "Holiday here this year" may have contributed to the increase in interest and popularity, despite ongoing lockdowns. Amazon.com.au listed The Definitive Bucketlist: Travel experiences in Australia & New Zealand and Ultimate Road Trips Australia as popular titles in the travel category during June.2
Consumers continue to embrace homegrown talent when selecting their next read.
Adult fiction by homegrown novelists has always been popular in Australia, and 2020 was no different. The fourth murder mystery by crime writer Jane Harper, The Survivors, sold 46,490 copies in the three weeks after publication in September 2020, according to Nielsen. That was nearly double the total that her previous title, The Lost Man (2018), achieved in the equivalent period after its release.3
Trent Dalton’s All Our Shimmering Skies, also published in September 2020, shifted 43,090 copies in its first three weeks. This figure was 770 percent higher than the comparative sales period for his 2018 debut, Boy Swallows Universe, – an international bestseller that has continued to perform strongly in Australia.4
Global cultural movements spark interest in Indigenous content.
Black Lives Matter, the movement that started in the US and went global in 2020, sparked a surge in interest in non-fiction titles about Australia’s Indigenous culture. Among the strongest performers were Stan Grant’s Talking to My Country (published in 2016), Marcia Langton’s Welcome to Country (2018) and Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu (2019).5
Audiobooks are on a steady rise, but the market is still emerging.
The audiobook market in Australia can still be described as emerging, as the relatively high price of the format has continued to restrict growth. Despite this, the Amazon-owned Audible Australia has seen its revenue grow every year since entering the market in 2014.6 The company faced new competition in 2020 as Booktopia and Rakuten Kobo formed a partnership to offer Booktopia customers access to Kobo’s audiobooks and ebooks. Audiobook revenue is incremental, as audiobooks do not replace, but rather complement physical books, with both formats satisfying consumers’ needs at distinct times, places and usage occasions. Audiobooks are benefiting from the behavioural shifts brought about through the increase in podcast consumption, with audiobooks being a logical extension of the experience and allowing for a more immersive and long-form experience.
In April 2021, Booktopia entered into partnership with academic book retailer Zookal to become the supplier and distributor of its physical book sales.
Whilst physical educational books have been declining over the last five years, COVID-19 brought about a revival of academic book consumption7 due to the disruption faced by schools and universities during lockdown.
Audiobooks are benefiting from the behavioural shifts brought about through the increase in podcast consumption, with audiobooks being a logical extension of the experience and allowing for a more immersive and long-form experience.
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