Despite uncertainties over Brexit, British publishers have a smile on their face, thanks to data released in the Publishers Association’s Publishing Yearbook 2017. It shows that the collective income of UK publishers grew by 5% to £5.7bn, driven by growth in export sales which now account for around 60% of publishers’ revenues. These sales, of course, have been helped by the weakness of the pound, though PA Chief Executive Stephen Lotinga pointed out that the good export figures were also because UK intellectual property is “in demand around the world”.
Total income from books in both physical and digital formats was up 4% in 2017 to £3.7bn, and physical book sales exceeded digital with revenues up 5% in 2017. Total digital sales income, including academic journals, rose 3% by comparison. Interestingly, stripping out journals, digital book sales fell by 2% and domestic sales of consumer e-books fell even further, down 9%, with fiction e-book sales falling 11%. The latter may be because the novelty of Amazon Kindle has long past and – worryingly for publishers – consumers are arguably using their devices, chiefly their mobiles, to look at content that is not produced by book publishers.
However, publishers are relieved that this fall in sales of e-book fiction is compensated by a rise in sales of print fiction. Hardback fiction income grew by 31% in 2017, to £97m, while fiction as a whole was up by 3% to £547m.
Lotinga said: “These figures reveal another stellar performance from the UK publishing industry. From blockbuster novels to the textbooks and research papers which shape our thinking, today’s statistics prove that society’s love of books in all forms shows no sign of waning.
“Publishers are catering to modern consumers who are reading books in different formats across different platforms, but still showing a very significant attachment to the printed word, as we continue to see the resilience and popularity of print across publishing sectors.
“Export income has increased significantly and this increase is testament to the high regard UK publishers, authors and their work are held in around the world – and the continued appetite of readers for them.”