Week 30/20 – week ending 24 July

Record year for British publishing in 2019

The total invoiced value of UK publisher sales rose to £6.3bn in 2019, 4% higher than in 2018 and 20% higher than in 2015, making 2019 the biggest year ever for UK publishing.

The Publishers Association’s new figures, released this morning in its annual Yearbook, show growth in both print and digital sales income. The significance of export sales is underlined by the report: export sales income accounts for 59% of total sales income.

Other headline facts include: print sales income was up 3% to £3.5bn; digital sales income up 4% to £2.8bn; home sales income up 4% to £2.4bn; export sales income up 3% to £3.7bn; consumer audiobook downloads sales income up 39% to £97m and non-fiction and reference sales income up to 6% to £1bn.

PA ceo Stephen Lotinga (pictured) said: “Before the coronavirus pandemic the UK’s publishing industry was flourishing with 2019 being the strongest year in the history of publishing. These robust figures reflect people’s ongoing need and desire for books.

“The UK publishing industry was on course to be worth £10bn by 2030 before coronavirus, but that will only happen now if the government properly supports our recovery. This means ensuring there is a fair market for books – particularly support for bookshops, avoiding a no-deal Brexit and providing vital funding for schools and universities so they can buy the education resources that students need to learn remotely.

“Our 2019 Yearbook figures tell a story of pre-Covid success, but they do not reflect the significant challenges that publishers have faced during this pandemic. Despite those difficulties, we know that many people have continued to look to books for solace, enlightenment and entertainment.”

The PA split the figures into four key sub-sets. Consumer publishing saw total sales income across print and digital up 3.5% to £2bn. Within that, print sales income was up 3.3% to £1.6bn and digital (ebooks and audiobook downloads) sales income was up 4.6% to £336m. However, fiction sales income was down 1.1% to £582m. Export sales made up 32% of consumer sales income in 2019, with Australia consumer publishing’s biggest export market.

Academic publishing saw total sales income from academic and professional books and journals combined up by 1.3%, to £3.3bn, some 25.8% higher than 2015. Digital formats (ebooks, e-journals, online subscriptions, learning management systems, etc) accounted for 70% of the total invoiced value of combined academic and professional book and journal sales, up from 63% in 2015, whilst exports made up 72% of academic books and journals income in 2019.

Educational publishing saw sales income from education books (school and English Language Teaching combined) up by 12.7% in 2019, to £657m. Home sales of education books in print and digital were flat in 2019 but have dropped 12.7% since 2015. Print sales income was up 11.8% and digital (ebooks, online subscriptions and learning management systems combined) was up 23.8%. Export sales made up 72% of education publishing’s income.

In the final sector, export, sales were up 3.3% against 2018 and export sales income accounted for 59% of total sales income in 2019. Europe is the largest export region for printed books and accounted for 36% of the invoiced value of exports. In consumer publishing, Australia is the biggest export market. Fiction exports to China were fast-growing (up 26.4%), non-fiction exports have grown significantly in Poland (71.2%) and Netherlands (up 38.2%) and Canada was the fastest-growing major export market for children’s books (up 52.3%).

In the education sub-sector: UAE is the biggest export market for school books while the fastest growing major export market is Kuwait (up 92.7%) followed by Oman (up 89.1%) and Turkey (up 60.3%). Spain is the largest export market for English Language Teaching while the fastest-growing markets include Russia (up 110.9%), and Peru (up 58.9%). The US is the biggest export market for academic and professional books. Sales income from exports of social science and humanities books to Singapore were up 19.9% while the fastest growing export market for science, technical and medical books was Canada (up 51.2%). The largest export region for learned journals is North America while the fastest-growing is sub-Saharan Africa (up 9.6%).