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E-Book Sales Statistics: EU Countries W…

E-Book Sales Statistics: EU Countries With the Highest Usage of E-books

Erudera compares top EU countries that bought the most e-books taking into account factors like e-books per capita, number of e-books purchased, population, and ebook market revenue.

Voltaire said, “Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.” If we do not dwell too deeply into the topic of harm, environment-wise (read: trees, Earth, and paper), it is true that reading has never harmed the world.

In fact, reading is beneficial in more than one way — it stimulates your imagination, makes you more knowledgeable, helps you focus, and helps you relax, and these are just some of its many advantages. Which is probably why humanity has found a way to make reading even more accessible by introducing e-books!

In a digital age dominated by smartphones, tablets, and e-readers, the way we consume information and literature has undergone a remarkable transformation. And, as it seems, these 10 European countries have wholeheartedly embraced this transformation.

Erudera has conducted research on the EU countries with the highest usage of E-books by taking into account factors like e-books per capita, number of e-books purchased, population, and ebook market revenue. More details in the Methodology section below!

You will find in this article: (1) Research Results [table and textual], (2) Insights from Readers, (3) Background Information, (4) Facts and Figures, and (5) Methodology.

Key Findings:

  • The United Kingdom has the highest usage of e-books, compared to other countries located in Europe, with a staggering 72M e-books purchased in 2021 (every person bought at least one e-book).
  • Following close behind is the land of poets and thinkers, Germany, with one in two people who purchased an e-book, according to estimations.
  • Almost one in two people bought an E-book in two countries, Denmark and Spain, respectively ranked third and fourth in our list.
  • Poland is the last on the list, where almost one in every 13 people bought an e-book.

Here are the details of the EU countries with the highest usage of e-books:

Country E-books per Capita No.of e-books purchased in 2021 - estimated Estimated country population (2021) E-books revenue in € Projected growth in revenue for the future
United Kingdom Every person bought an E-book 72M 67.33M 1.7B 16.0%
Germany One in two people bought an E-book 38M 83.2M 505M -0.07%
Denmark Almost one in two people bought an E-book 2.6M 5.85M 16.9 M 3.61%
Spain Almost one in two people bought an E-book 20.7M 47.42M 134M 0.83%
Netherlands One in three people bought an E-book 6.8M 17.53M 44.8M 2.26%
France Almost one in three people bought an E-book 19M 67.75M 123M 1.55%
Italy Almost one in four people bought an E-book 13.2M 59.11M 86M 0.53%
Sweden One in every eight people bought an E-book 1.2M 10.42M 8M 1.23%
Norway Almost one in every 10 people bought an E-book 533K 5.40M 4.1M 1.34%
Poland Almost one in every 13 people bought  an E-book 3M 37.75M 20.1M 2.33%

1. United Kingdom

E-Books/Capita: Every person bought an E-book.

The United Kingdom stands out as a leading European country in terms of e-book usage. With a population of approximately 67.33 million in 2021, every person in the UK purchased an e-book, indicating a widespread adoption of digital reading.

The number of e-books purchased in 2021 reached an impressive 72 million (estimated), generating a substantial revenue of €1.7 billion.

The projected growth in revenue for the future is expected to be 16.0%, reflecting a promising market for e-books in the UK.

Home to some of the world’s most notable writers, like Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and Jane Austen (to name just a few), the UK is undoubtedly a nation of literature!

2. Germany

E-Books/Capita: One in two people bought an E-book.

Germany holds a prominent position among European countries regarding the use of e-books. One in two people in Germany purchased an e-book, highlighting a substantial user base. In 2021, an estimated 38 million e-books were bought in the country, resulting in a revenue of €505 million.

Although the projected growth in revenue for the future is expected to be -0.07%, indicating a slight decline, Germany's e-book market continues to demonstrate a strong presence and a significant interest in digital reading among its population.

Speaking about Germany and reading, one can’t go without mentioning prominent writers like Friedrich Nietzsche or Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who have left their mark with their writing.

3. Denmark

E-Books/Capita: Almost one in two people bought an E-book.

Denmark also embraces e-books, displaying a strong affinity for digital reading and ranking third on our list, with a rate of nearly one in two people purchasing an e-book.

In 2021 alone, an estimated 2.6 million e-books were purchased in the country, resulting in a revenue of €16.9 million. The projected growth in revenue is expected to reach a promising 3.61%, indicating a positive trajectory for the e-book market in Denmark.

Despite its comparatively smaller population size of 5.85 million, Denmark showcases a significant e-book culture.

While we’re in Denmark, you can’t help but think about reading the e-book version of Hans Christian Andersen’s literary fairy tales! Some would argue that nothing is the same as having a physical copy, but magic like that seems to span such differences.

4. Spain

E-Books/Capita: Almost one in two people bought an E-book.

Nearly one in two people purchased an e-book in Spain, which is an impressive liking for e-books.

In 2021, Spaniards purchased an estimated 20.7 million e-books, with a revenue of €134 million. The projected growth in revenue is expected to be 0.83%.

With a population of 47.42 million, Spain appears to be a lovely country of e-book readers.

Spain is home to one of the world’s distinguished novelists, Miguel de Cervantes, with the famous Don Quixote — often referred to as the world’s “first modern novel.” Talk about embracing innovation!

5. Netherlands

E-Books/Capita: One in three people bought an E-book.

The Netherlands also made our list of top EU countries by e-book usage!

E-books have gained significant popularity here, with approximately one in three people embracing digital reading. An estimated 6.8 million e-books were purchased in the Netherlands in 2021, generating €44.8 million.

The projected revenue growth shows a positive trend, standing at 2.26%.

The Netherlands has also left its contributions to literature, with its fair share of talented writers, such as Harry Mulisch and Hella Haasse, to name just a few.

6. France

E-Books/Capita: Almost one in three people bought an E-book.

Home to the famous bookstore Shakespeare & Co., France also embraces the world of e-books.

19 million e-books were purchased in 2021 in France, with a revenue of €123 million. The trend is also positive when it comes to projected growth in revenue, standing at 1.55%.

Apart from finger-licking croissants, you can also find an impressive community of readers with a passion for digital literature.

France has produced countless pre-eminent authors, listing Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, whose works are being read and analyzed to this day.

7. Italy

E-Books/Capita: Almost one in four people bought an E-book.

The allure of e-books has also captivated Italy, with nearly one in four people joining the digital reading experience.

According to 2021 estimations, Italians purchased around 13.2 million e-books. The revenue stands at €86 million, with a projected growth of 0.53%.

Renowned for its rich history, breathtaking art, and cultural contributions, Italy also embraces the digital realm, blending tradition and innovation.

Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, and Umberto Eco are just some of the many authors who have shaped the literature of Italy.

8. Sweden

E-Books/Capita: One in every eight people bought an E-book.

E-books have captured the attention of one in every eight people in Sweden. Estimations show that 1.2 million e-books were purchased in 2021, resulting in a revenue of €8 million, with a projected growth of 1.23%.

Beyond its contribution to music with ABBA, Sweden boasts an awe-inspiring landscape, with approximately 70% of its land covered in lush forests. Now, Sweden makes our list as one of the top EU countries by e-book usage.

Sweden is home to outstanding writers, noting the likes of Henning Mankell or Stieg Larsson with the popular The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

9. Norway

E-Books/Capita: Almost one in every 10 people bought an E-book.

Almost one in every 10 people has joined the club of e-book lovers in Norway. In 2021, Norwegians bought approximately 533,000 e-books, with an estimated revenue of €4.1 million.

Norway is also among the countries showing a positive revenue growth trend in the e-book market, respectively 1.34%.

Norway is famous for many things, among which its breathtaking fjords, northern lights, and mesmerizing lakes… and for being a country of e-book readers.

Norway continues to produce wonderful authors, with one of the most influential including Knut Hamsun, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920.

10. Poland

E-Books/Capita: Almost one in every 13 people bought an E-book.

With a population of 37.75 million, Poland demonstrates significant interest in reading digitally.

Nearly one in every 13 people purchased an e-book in 2021 (3 million e-books), translating into a revenue of €20.1 million. The projected revenue growth stands at a promising 2.33% for our 10th-ranked country.

It’s fair to say Poland's contributions to science, literature, and music are noteworthy, so it’s no surprise that this country has also shown its keen interest in reading, whether it be digital or physical copies.

Polish writers include Stanislaw Lem, Tadeusz Różewicz, and Henryk Sienkiewicz, to list a few.

Insights From Readers

Our research would not be complete without real insights from readers of e-books! Their reasons for reading digitally range from the practicality of e-books to accessibility and affordability.

An e-bookworm, Behar Sadiku, said he has always loved books, but since he travels a lot, he could never pack all the books he wanted during his travels.

“E-books saved me a ton of headaches because all of my TBR pile is in the palm of my hand,” Behar told Erudera.

He continued that he does “prefer e-books over traditional printed copies.” Some of the reasons being they are “easy to carry” and there is “no need to go somewhere to get the book.”

“The possibility of reading different books on a single device” makes the whole experience as practical as Sadiku needs it to be, especially during his travels.

Another e-bookworm, Safa Xhigoli, a literature student, admitted that “ebooks are optimal and very convenient” in various situations, especially during flights and commutes. Since she has to move houses very often, her tablet has enabled her to keep her book pile without the hassle of dealing with airline rules when it comes to luggage weight restrictions.

“Even though it is really satisfying and aesthetically pleasing to have a nice, well-curated, color-coordinated bookshelf, when one moves often and, on top of that, is bound by the limited weight that airlines impose, owning printed books becomes a burden and highly stressful. This is why, in these circumstances, ebooks are optimal and very convenient,” she told Erudera.

Annotating and highlighting are especially important to Xhigoli during her reading experience. This, too, she admits, has been easier with the help of electronic gadgets.

“It is also easier for me to highlight and take notes during my reading because, on our gadgets, we have the leisure to select from a range of colors both for highlighting and taking notes, making later research or information search much easier. Just think about the number of colored pens one would have to carry to do that by hand,” she admitted.

Apart from practicality, affordability is another good reason she prefers electronic gadgets.

“I have purchased ebooks online for both my research and leisure reading. Generally speaking, e-books are also cheaper than, more often than not, half of the price of printed books, so this is another advantage,” said Xhigoli, whose ebook pile mainly includes historical fiction, as well as ebooks on cultural studies, cultural anthropology, sociology, religion, philosophy, and history.

Background Information

What Is an E-book?

An e-book is a digitalized version of a book that enables reading on electronic devices such as computers or handheld devices (e-readers, tablets, and smartphones).

Unlike traditional printed books, e-books exist in a digital format and are distributed online. E-books can come in various file formats, including EPUB, MOBI, PDF, and others, depending on the device or software used to read them.

These formats allow the e-books to be optimized for different screen sizes and provide features like adjustable font sizes, bookmarking, highlighting, and search functionality.

Benefits of E-books Over Printed Books

A few benefits of e-books compared to printed books include:

  • Portability. E-books offer portability and convenience by allowing readers to carry an entire library on a single device, eliminating the need for physical storage or heavy books.
  • Accessibility. They are easily accessible, adjustable for readers with visual impairments, and offer search and interactive features.
  • Environmentaly-friendly. With each book produced, more trees are cut down, causing significant harm to the environment. As digital devices become increasingly accessible, people now have the opportunity to choose e-books as a more environmentally friendly option. While electronic devices have their own environmental impact, ebooks generally have a smaller ecological footprint.

E-Books vs. Books

Pros/Cons Books E-books
Pro: Are easily portable and save space No Yes
Pro: Are budget-friendly No Yes
Pro: Are easily annotated and highlighted Yes Yes
Pro: Have practical search functionality No Yes
Pro: Are environmental-friendly No Yes
Pro: Are instantly accessible No Yes
Pro: Have adjustable font size No Yes
Con: Require battery life No Yes
Con: Risk of digital fatigue No Yes
Con: Potential for distractions No Yes

Facts and Figures

A condensed timeline of ebooks:

  • The first automated reader. In 1949, Angela Ruiz Robles, a visionary school teacher from Spain, invented the world's first automated reader, paving the way for the modern e-readers we know today. Angela was inspired by her students' struggles, who had to carry multiple heavy textbooks to school every day. With her innovative idea, she aimed to create a portable device that would make it much easier for school children to carry their reading materials.
  • The first ebook. In 1971, Michael S. Hart, a student at the University of Illinois, made a groundbreaking achievement using a Xerox mainframe computer within a university research lab. He transformed the American Declaration of Independence into this pioneering electronic format. Although the first e-book was essentially a pamphlet rather than a full-length book, it marked a significant milestone in the digital literary world.
  • BiblioBytes started to sell eBooks. In 1993, BiblioBytes made history as the first company to sell e-books on the Internet.
  • Simon & Schuster created the ‘iBooks’ imprint. In 1999, Simon & Schuster, an American publisher, established a new imprint called iBooks. This also marked a significant milestone as they became the first trade publisher to release books in both e-book and print formats at the same time.

Where do readers read their ebooks?

  • According to BookNet Canada, tablets are the device of choice for 62% of users, establishing their position as the most widely utilized device for reading ebooks. Individuals between the ages of 35 and 54 show a particularly strong affinity for tablets, with the most used app on the tablet being Amazon Kindle (20% of digital readers).
  • On the smartphone, the most popular app for ebook readers is Google Books (20% of digital readers), followed by Amazon Kindle (17%).

E-book market growth:

According to Technavio, the global e-book market is projected to experience significant growth between 2022 and 2027, with an estimated increase of USD 8,316.2 million. This growth is anticipated to be driven by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7%.

Methodology

This research aims to determine the number of e-books per capita in the top ten countries where electronic books are most commonly used.

To achieve this, we have undertaken the following steps:

Selection of Countries: Ten European countries were chosen based on their high usage or purchasing of e-books. This selection was based on several reports that provided market share data on e-books.

Population Data: The population figures for each selected country were obtained for the year 2021. This data is crucial for calculating books per capita.

E-book Purchase Data: The number of e-book purchases was collected for each country. This information helps in understanding the e-book market size in each country.

Calculation of E-books per Capita: The population figure and the number of e-book purchases were divided to determine the number of e-books per capita in each country. This metric allows for a comparison of e-book availability and usage across different populations.

Revenue Analysis: In addition to the above, the research also investigated the revenue generated from e-book sales in euros for 2021. Moreover, future revenue projections were made to understand the expected growth in the near future. These statistics were obtained from reliable sources (projected growth revenue data from Statista).

By following this methodology, the research aims to provide insights into the prevalence and popularity of e-books in the selected countries and their economic impact.