Nielsen’s latest figures for UK publishing 2019 show a remarkable story of resilience and stability for printed books in a tumultuous global book market that at the start of this decade many believed had no future.
December, reports the UK trade journal The Bookseller, saw the print market show 2.4% growth in revenue and a 0.4% bump in volume year on year, despite the absence of big-hitting books like Michelle Obama’s memoir that stormed the 2018 charts. All told 2019 saw 191.6 million print books sold for £1.66bn, the best revenue for UK print since 2010.
Checkout The Bookseller for more detail about which titles did well.
Here to take a step back and put this in some sort of context.
Back in 2010 ebooks were just being taken seriously in the UK, thanks to the launch of the Amazon Kindle UK store, and over the next few years we saw triple-figure growth well in excess of any growth being reported nowadays for audiobooks.
Ebooks, combined with a seemingly imminent demise of the UK’s biggest bookstore chain, Waterstone’s (it had an apostrophe back then), had the UK publishing industry seriously worried. All the more so when Borders collapsed in the US.
But while the naysayers busily repeated tales of publishers re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic, UK publishing metamorphosed into a new, more resilient, more adaptable creature that would prove quite able to ride out the coming storm, and we start the new decade with UK publishing in robust health, Waterstones (now without the apostrophe) doing rather well, audiobooks scaling new heights, and ebooks stable.
While there are still many challenges ahead, the UK publishing industry starts 2020 stronger than when it started the 2010s, with print and digital, if not quite in harmony, no longer seen as an either/or fight-to-the-bitter-end battle.
Rather, print and digital in its myriad incarnations are now seen as complimentary formats that publishers big, small and indie can benefit from.
And the real beauty of it is that these same publishers also have a huge global export market to supplement these UK sales, that is growing by the day.
2020 is going to be great year to be a publisher.