Record year for UK publishing

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Friday 28 April 2017

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2016 was a record-breaking year for the UK publishing industry, according to the latest figures from the Publishers Association.

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Physical book sales grew by 8% to £3bn in 2016

Sales of books and journals reached £4.8bn last year – their highest ever level. The increase in sales of 7% on the previous year is the largest growth in a decade, when in 2007 digital was included for the first time.

Physical book sales grew by 8% to £3bn, rising to the highest level since 2012. Overall digital sales, meanwhile, grew by 6% to £1.7bn despite a continuation of the drop in e-book sales, which fell by 3% to £538m.

Overall consumer publishing rose by 5% to £1.8bn – fuelled by a return to growth for children’s books sales, which increased by 16% to £365m. Non-fiction sales also increased, by 9% to £884m, but fiction sales fell by 7% to £525m, meaning the category has now dropped by 23% since 2012.

Educational publishing grew by 5% to £336m while academic and professional publishing was up by 10% to £2.4bn, with publisher sales of academic and professional books jumping by 9% to £1.1bn. The total income from journals grew by 10% to £1.2bn.

The Publishers Association said industry growth has been fuelled by success both at home and abroad, with export sales rising by 6% to £2.6bn and now responsible for 54% of total revenues.

The strength of export sales is particularly apparent within academic and research publishers. Export figures for learned journals collected for the first time showed 87% of their revenues coming from exports.

Furthermore, exports of children’s books increased by 34% to £116m, publishers of primary and secondary learning materials saw export sales rise by 11% to £144m, with digital exports increasing by 136%, and non-fiction exports jumped by 10% to £264m.

Sales to East and South Asia were up 10% to £231m while growth also returned to North America, with sales up 19% to £136m. Europe remains the largest export market, accounting for 35% of exports.

Publishers Association chief executive Stephen Lotinga said: “UK publishing is a world leader and these figures confirm that the industry is flourishing due to the hard work and ingenuity of its superb publishing houses and workforce.

“All of us have at some point in our lives enjoyed the work of a great author, used a high quality textbook, or benefitted from the sharing of academic literature and that is only possible due to the continued success of the publishing industry.

“Whatever the makeup of the new government, they must ensure that any post-Brexit trade settlement it reaches with the EU and other countries reinforces this continued success.”

For more on the UK book printing market, see the PrintWeek league table.

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