Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock boosts Conan Doyle book sales

You might think television discourages reading, but in one intriguing case, at least, you'd be wrong...

imagenotavailable1

Sales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories are enjoying a resurgence thanks to the popularity of BBC1 TV show Sherlock.

Advertisement

The first series of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s modern-day reworking, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the great detective, aired in 2010. That year, sales of Sherlock Holmes books increased by 53 per cent – from around 57,000 copies to 88,000 – compared with 2009. 2011 saw a further increase as fans looked ahead to the second series, which concluded last night.

The Sherlock Holmes blockbuster movie franchise starring Robert Downey Jr may also have contributed to heightened interest in the books – the films were released in December of 2009 and 2011 – but figures support the idea that it’s the TV series that is mainly responsible.

Weekly sales of Sherlock Holmes books took “a significant jump” when the series began, according to David Walter of Neilsen BookScan, which provided the figures. They more than doubled in the week in which the first episode of series one was broadcast – from 1,562 copies in the previous seven-day period to 3,758 – maintaining that level during the three-part run and returning to normal around a month after the series ended.

Although the annual increase in Christmas sales makes a week-on-week comparison harder for the second series of Sherlock, airing as it did in January, it does seem to have had a similar impact.

“If you compare sales for the first week of 2012 to an average week from 2011 (sales somewhere under 2,000 copies a week) the sales are nearly double,” said Walter. “Book sales are usually relatively quiet after Christmas so this does indicate good sales.”

Figures used included all books sold by Conan Doyle during the periods quoted, but Walter said sales of non-Sherlock Holmes books had a negligible effect on the figures.

Advertisement

After fans saw Sherlock miraculously survive an apparently fatal fall in last night’s season finale, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat revealed via Twitter that a third series had been commissioned.