Single Track Downloads Dominate

Almost all single music tracks are now purchased digitally instead of in physical CD or vinyl formats in the UK. But digital album sales are falling as a result.

Artwork: Chip Taylor
According to the latest chapter of Social Trends, on lifestyles and social participation, published last week by the U.K. Office for National Statistics (ONS) digital sales -- from online stores such as Apple's iTunes and Amazon MP3 -- increased by 92 percent between 2007 and 2009 and now stand at 98 percent of all singles sold.

Overall, the volume of sales of singles has grown. In 2007 consumers purchased a total 87 million physical and digital singles: this increased by 76 percent to reach 153 million in 2009.

However, there has been a decrease of 7 percent in the total number of albums sold, from 145 million in 2007 to 135 million in 2009.

While there was an increase of 160 percent in the sale of digital albums between 2007 and 2009, digital sales are still much lower than for singles.

Digital accounted for just 12 percent of all album sales in 2009: 16 million sold digitally in 2009 compared to 119 million sold physically. The sales of albums in physical format dropped 14 per cent between 2007 and 2009.

Jen Beaumont ONS Social Trends Editor said: "These figures show that downloading is now overwhelmingly the most popular way for music fans to purchase songs. However, when buying a whole album, fans still clearly prefer to purchase a physical product."

As well as music, the chapter also looks at book sales.

Between 2007 and 2009 UK publishers' net unit sales fell by 6 per cent from 492 to 463 million units. However, total UK publisher's sales of digital products are on the rise, reaching just over £150 million in 2009.

Overall, digital sales now represent around 4 to 5 percent of the combined physical and digital sales of UK publishers in 2009.

Between 2005/06 and 2009/10 there was a steady decrease in the proportion of adults aged 16 and over visiting a public library in England, from 48 percent to 39 per cent.

Overall the number of books issued by public libraries in England has fallen from 279 million in 2004/05 to 264 million in 2008/09.

There were 10 million active borrowers (those who visit the library for the purpose of borrowing books) using public libraries in England in 2008/09, a decline of 10 per cent from 2004/05.

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