London - Sales of virtual books on Amazon’s UK site have overtaken the real thing, helped by the best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey.

The company, which only started selling downloadable books here in August 2010, said this year it had sold 114 internet book downloads for every 100 printed books.

Amazon’s Kindle e-readers have been a huge seller in Britain despite the fact consumers here are charged 70 percent more than US readers.

The success of downloads is good news for Amazon because of the huge savings involved in not having to print and distribute books – but it is a disaster for small bookshops, which are closing at the rate of two a week.

The most popular downloads this year have been the racy Fifty Shades trilogy by British writer EL James. More than two million digital versions were sold in just four months.

A Kindle EU spokesman said: “Customers in the UK are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books.

“We hit this milestone in the US less than four years after introducing Kindle, so to reach this landmark after just two years in the UK is remarkable.” - Daily Mail