Book printers enjoyed a fruitful 2018 as the UK book market grew for the fourth consecutive year.
It was reported on Thursday (3 January) by The Bookseller magazine that the Nielsen BookScan statistics for 2018 showed a growth of the UK book market by 2.1% in value and by 0.3% in volume. In total, 190.9 million books were sold for £1.63bn across the year.
According to Bookseller, this indicated an increase of £34m in sales and an additional 627,000 books bought compared to the previous year.
The year’s biggest hit was Becoming, the autobiography of former US first lady Michelle Obama, which alone brought in £7.7m and topped the book charts for four weeks in a row, including topping the Christmas countdown.
Becoming was printed by Suffolk-headquartered book printer Clays, which reportedly thrived as demand for books continued to climb.
Sales director Vicky Ellis said: “Over the full year, we saw an uplift in terms of quantities, orders and run lengths certainly. We have recently had meetings to discuss the upcoming trends and I can imagine, in light of Brexit and Trump, political books will remain popular.
“Taking on Becoming was fantastic; we want a book like this every year. After the initial massive print run, we were constantly producing to keep up with demand often on turnarounds as quick as three days.
“After a few years of doom and gloom because of the advent of e-books, it has become clear that a decline in demand for printed books is actually highly unlikely. People want to pass around what they are reading, and they want attractive pieces on their shelves.”
Ellis said that a period of investment at Clays which included the introduction of a new HP PageWide T490HD web press had improved the firm’s capacity during the intensive run-up to Christmas, compared to in previous years.
Bestsellers had also aided Glasgow operation Bell & Bain, which does not usually print big hits but has enjoyed a wide variety of requests over the year.
Managing director Stephen Docherty said: “This year saw us printing a wider range of books than ever before, but we had initially felt our balance between different types of work was not quite 100%; a bit too much single-colour and not enough four-colour.
“We spent time investing in machinery and people to redress that balance and ended 2018 by getting into position so we can be confident going forward. There will likely be around £6m-£7m of investment here in 2019.
“Books have a textural quality to them and a flexibility that digital does not; they are great for holidays or a way to get kids off their screens. We are extremely optimistic for our prospects now in 2019.”
The BPIF has long worked as an advocate for the printed book, being the organiser of the annual British Book Design & Production Awards.
Chief executive Charles Jarrold said: “We have certainly noticed a renewed optimism in the book sector with publishers, printers and designers speaking enthusiastically at last year’s awards.
“The tangibility of printed books and the ability to experience them through multiple senses – sound, smell, sight – is often cited, and evokes far more of an emotional attachment. In addition, physical books can be seen as an expression of identity. The simple fact is that there’s nothing quite like a physical book to really engage with.
“This consistent upturn for books should be great news for printers and an opportunity for them to educate publishers even more so about new finishes and techniques they can use to really make their books stand out on the shelves.”