TORONTO — Almost half of the books purchased in Canada last year were bought online, according to data from BookNet Canada, as e-commerce continues to chip away at bricks and mortar retailing.

The industry nonprofit group reported Monday that 48 per cent of some $983.7 million in annual print book purchases in 2016 were made through digital channels, up 1.8 per cent from 2015, while 52 per cent were made in physical stores.

The reporting retailers represent 85 per cent of the print trade market in Canada and include chain bookstores, independent retailers, discount stores, and general merchandise retailers, BookNet said.

The news comes days after entertainment retailer HMV Canada announced it would cease operations and close all 102 of its stores in nine provinces after its core market of music and DVD sales slowly eroded amid the rise of digital entertainment.

In the case of books, the format switch from physical books to e-books has flattened in recent years, but people continue to buy more physical books online.

The country’s biggest specialty bookseller, Indigo Books & Music Inc., has managed to hold steady in the market and boost its overall sales through the addition of non-book items such as toys, electronics, baby gifts and home décor items.

BookNet said sales of paperbacks accounted for 54.2 per cent of all book purchases in 2016, up from 51.1 per cent in 2015. E-books slid to 16.8 per cent of sales, compared with 19 per cent in 2015, while sales of hardcover books and audio books were flat, accounting for 23.9 per cent of sales and 2.6 per cent, respectively.

In order, the five top-selling books of 2016 were Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany; The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney; All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; 99 by Wayne Gretzy; and Diary of a Wimpy Kid #11: Double Down by Jeff Kinney.

Financial Post

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