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Another market has shown the resilience of books during the pandemic. The latest New Zealand Publishing Market Size Report 2020, completed by Nielsen Book Research for the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ)/Te Rau o Tākapu shows publishers have proved remarkably buoyant, despite the turmoil of bookstore closures, shipping delays and cancelled author events.

According to the report, in 2020 books proved a powerful comfort to people in stressful and uncertain times. Whether it was home-schooling children due to school closures, escaping reality via fiction, or learning new skills, books were at the centre of people’s lives, a vital resource.

The report highlights the $302.2 million contributions the publishing industry makes to New Zealand’s creative economy, an increase of 3% on 2019.  Growth came from several sectors―all New Zealand-published content sold domestically grew 13% year-on-year, digital formats for the general consumer market grew 15% by volume, and the online sales channel experienced an uplift of 60% by value.

This growth in digital revenue was accelerated by both bookstore and library closures during the pandemic which affected access to new print titles. But despite the gains seen in digital formats as a result of the pandemic, Kiwis still have a strong preference for physical print books.  In 2020, print book sales increased 6% to $135.3m, accounting for a 90% volume share of the total market.

Both the children’s books and the fiction categories experienced value growth around 10% as Kiwis clearly craved comfort and escape of fantasy worlds.  In contrast non-fiction recorded a slight value decline of 1%.  There was continuing growth in Māori-language publishing, with the data showing a 24% increase in unit sales on 2019.  But the figures were not as comforting in the export sector, with a 13% decline in earnings from New Zealand content as access to international markets, rights fairs and other routes to market were curtailed during the pandemic.

Commenting on the report, the Immediate Past President, PANZ Julia Marshall, said: “In the post-COVID-19 world, we hope to consolidate the gains made as more consumers rediscover the pleasure of reading. Our job now is to rebuild our export markets, which provide vital income for New Zealand authors and publishers alike, while restrictions to international travel persist.”