kobo_glo_hdEbook sales fell by 1.6% to £554m last year according to figures recently reported by industry body the Publishers Association.

The decline, the first since the body started monitoring the digital book market seven years ago, came despite a 0.4% growth in printed books and suggests digital reading may have reached its peak.

Commenting on the fall in sales, Publishers Association chief executive Stephen Lotinga said: “Digital continues to be an incredibly important part of the industry, but it would appear there remains a special place in the consumer’s heart for aesthetic pleasure that printed books can bring.”

Once the must-have gadget, ebook readers have ceded market share in recent years to tablets such as Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Fire Tablet.

The shift away from standalone ereaders saw Sony abandon the market two years ago while Barnes & Noble’s NOOK quit the UK earlier this year.

Both firms’ decisions have left Amazon’s Kindle and rival Kobo as the dominant players in the traditional ereader market.

The two firms compete with Apple’s iPad and iPhone-based iBookstore for sales of books.

While both have reader apps available for Apple’s devices, the US tech giant’s rules prevent them from selling titles through their apps without paying a 30% commission, a level both have said would make sales unviable.