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'Fifty Shades of Grey' tops all book sales in 2012

The numbers are in for 2012 book sales from Publishers Weekly, and they add up to one book series spanking all the competition: The bawdy and badly written Fifty Shades of Grey whips every other title.

Okay, groaner puns out of my system. PW's annual bestseller report has another, related main theme — e-books continue to be the industry's greatest growth sector.

Apparently, 2012 was BDSM's year. The three Fifty Shades books, separately and as a three-volume set, have sold a whopping 29 million copies in trade paperback since March 2012. They also sold 15 million digital copies in 2012. (The books were not published in hardback — they originated as e-books and then went to print as paperbacks.)

Although the numbers for Fifty Shades are in a league of their own, those print versus e-book numbers are part of a trend. Most newly published books still sell more hardback copies than digital ones, but the numbers for the latter are rising fast. One of the year's top books, in fact, sold about 900,000 print copies, but more than a million e-books: Gillian Flynn's terrific Gone Girl.

The number of hardback books that sold more than 100,000 copies is a record low, according to PW: 91 in fiction, 74 in nonfiction. (Just two years before, those numbers were 126 and 108.) Only four 2012 hardbacks cracked the 1 million mark in sales, two each in fiction and nonfiction.

Moving from wizard books for kids to realism for adults, J.K. Rowling topped the fiction list with 1.3 million hardback copies of The Casual Vacancy. Just behind her was perennial bestseller John Grisham (he's ranked in the top 15 every year since 1991) with 1 million copies of The Racketeer.

The year's top seller in hardback nonfiction was the second assassination book from Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot, with 1.5 million copies. (Coming from them this fall: Killing Jesus.) No. 2 in nonfiction with 1 million books sold was No Easy Day: The Firsthand Accounts of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden, by Mark Owen (the nom de plume of former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette) with Kevin Maurer.

A Tampa Bay area resident ranked No. 14 on the hardback fiction list. Michael Connelly's latest book, The Black Box, published in November, sold 321,561 copies. It also sold 101,940 digital copies. (Connelly's 2011 novel The Drop sold 302,681 e-books in 2012, and six more of his books, including several e-book originals, sold more than 100,000 digital copies.) A 2012 book from another local resident, Live by Night by Dennis Lehane, sold 154,738 copies in hardback.

Among books for young readers, another trilogy dominated the bestseller list, this one for the third year in a row. Thanks to the rocket boost provided by a hit film, the Hunger Games series sold 15 million print (both hardback and paperback) books and 12.7 million e-books in 2012. The first book, The Hunger Games, accounted for 11.7 million of those combined numbers.

Other series for young readers racked up sizable numbers, notably Rick Riordan's myth-based novels, which sold a combined 5.6 million. The Harry Potter books, however, have pretty much dropped off the PW lists, with only the first volume, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, showing up at no. 53 on the paperback bestseller list with 142,016 copies. (Because Rowling retained the digital rights to the books, which in 2012 became available only through her Pottermore website, their sales are not included in PW's e-book numbers, although more than 500,000 were sold in the first month they were available.)

Among new hardback books for kids, only two topped 1 million: Riordan's The Mark of Athena and Jeff Kinney's The Third Wheel (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), which each sold about 1.4 million. The Mark of Athena sold another 305,734 e-books; Third Wheel, 114,995 — suggesting that the e-book trend holds up for young readers as well.

One other trend to note: Although the hardback bestseller lists, both for adults and kids, are still overwhelmingly made up of newly published books, the e-book lists are rich with what publishers call backlists, books published years and even decades ago. Many on the adult list are books that have been made into films. Jonathan Safron Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants and Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower each sold more than 300,000 e-books in 2012. The kids' e-book list is dominated by series, with multiple books by Riordan, James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer (bit of a movie tie-in for her, as well).

Colette Bancroft can be reached at or (727) 893-8435.

'Fifty Shades of Grey' tops all book sales in 2012 03/30/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 2:00pm]
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