Data / ERGs

Data ERG

The Data ERG is chaired by Jon Page, bookseller at Pages & Pages in Mosman (Sydney) and President of the Australian Booksellers Association.


Industry data is critical for any industry. It shows where an industry has been, where it currently is and where it is heading. It allows the industry to spot trends and changes in the marketplace and allows the industry to plan and invest for the future. It is also vitally important when dealing with Government.

During the open market debate in 2009/10 critical data on the book industry could only be provided anecdotally as there was no hard data available. The Book Industry Strategy Group also found distinct gaps in industry data and PwC Australia was asked to put together a snapshot of the where the Australian book industry currently stood. It too also found gaps in information on the industry that was needed for the BISG report. The final BSG report recommended:

14. That the Government and the book industry share the cost of reinstating collection of book industry statistics by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and that survey collection commence in the 2012-13 financial year.

In its response to the BISG report the Government supported the reinstatement of book industry statistic collection but would not fund the survey collection at this point in time. It is the role of the Book Industry Collaborative Council to therefore find an alternate way to fund or source the data that the Australian book industry requires.

The book industry has been blessed with great data in the last decade. The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted an annual study between 2001 & 2004 and for the last 11 years the sales data of print books in Australia has been collected and collated by Nielsen BookScan. It covers a majority of book retailers in Australia, from independents to chain stores (Dymocks, Collins and Borders/Angus & Roberston) to Australian online booksellers to Discount Department Stores (Big W, Target, Kmart). Nielsen’s data is an invaluable tool for everyone in the book industry. It allows publishers to see real sales data of their titles so they can make more informed decisions on print runs and when to reprint a book. It also allows retailers and publishers to quickly spot trends and track the longevity of particular books, series, and genres. Having this data means that everyone in the book industry can better understand and plan what they do in their businesses.

However Nielsen does not collect all book sales data. There are a number of bookshops who do not provide data to Nielsen (which Nielsen weights their figures for). Nielsen also does not gather book sales from non-traditional book retailers (Australia Post) or direct sales from publishers. Book sales made in Australia from overseas retailers are also not collected. Nielsen does collect book sales data in the UK and the US but is unable to determine the originating country for the book sale.

Nielsen also does not collect eBook sales data. Publishers, of course, collect their own eBook data but there are no industry-wide figures. The eBook market is rapidly emerging and evolving. Data on eBook sales is critical for bookshops, publishers, authors and libraries. eBook sales are estimated to become 25-30% of the total book market. This will fundamentally change they way the book industry operates and needs to be planned for and managed. This cannot be done without industry wide data.

The book industry in the US formed the Book Industry Study Group in 2010. The US-BISG is a not-for-profit group who members include all the major publishers and the Association of American Publishers, all the major book retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble and other key stakeholders in the book industry. The group collects source data directly from publishers and publishes primary research related to the US book industry. The US-BISG is funded through membership, sponsorship and selling its data research. The US-BISG is also responsible for developing, maintain and promoting industry standards and practices.  There is a similar body in the UK, Book Industry Communication, set up by the UK Publishers Association which also deals with standards and practice but not data collection. And there is BookNet Cananda, which is partially funded by the Canadian Government. The BNC also collects industry data and maintains industry standards and practise.

The Data Expert Reference group that has been formed by the Book Industry Collaborative Council will determine the extent of book industry statics that are currently being collect. It will also determine what statistics the book industry requires that is not being collected. A framework will then be agreed upon for collecting and collating this data. A body similar to those in the US, UK and Canada will be central to any data collection, collation and distribution and will be a crucial part of the implementation plan for delivering this framework.