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Book sales in the UK hit record levels in 2019, driven by a surge in audiobook and nonfiction titles, according to the latest figures from the Publishers Association (PA).

Book sales rose to £6.3bn in 2019, up 4% on 2018, when sales fell for the first time in five years, and 20% on 2015.

Figures by (PA) showed overall print sales were up 3% to £3.5bn in 2019 and digital sales were up 4% to £2.8bn, driven by a 39% increase in audiobook downloads. Digital formats accounted for 44% of the market in 2019, up from 40% in 2015.

Strong nonfiction and reference sales, seen in bestsellers such as cookbook Pinch of Nom, Caroline Criado-Perez’s Invisible Women, and Charlie Mackesy’s.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, saw the sector grow 23.1% to £1bn in 2019, when compared with 2015.

The growth in nonfiction stands in contrast to fiction. Despite the publication of highly anticipated novels such as Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, sales fell to £582m in 2019, down 5.6% when compared with 2015.

“The 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,” said PA chief executive Stephen Lotinga.

Publishers have anticipated declines in revenue of up to 75% as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, with bookshops closed for more than two months, publication dates postponed, orders for books cancelled and author tours called off.

One success story was however revealed when Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury reported a 28% growth in consumer sales in the fourth months ending in June 2020.

The PA however warned that publishing will require further support from the government to ensure a quick and full recovery. Some small publishers have been forced to turn to crowdfunding to keep themselves in business.

“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,” said Lotinga.

Source: The Guardian