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Last year was ‘best ever’ for UK publishing industry

Exports accounted for 59% of total sales for publishers.

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(Ryan Phillips/PA)

(Ryan Phillips/PA)

(Ryan Phillips/PA)

The UK publishing industry had its best year in 2019 thanks to a growth in print and digital sales, according to the Publishers Association.

Sales of books, journals, rights and co-editions were valued at £6.3 billion for the year – a 4% rise on the 2018 figure and a 20% increase since 2015, the association said.

Exports accounted for 59% of the industry’s total sales.

Income from consumer audiobook downloads shot up by 39% to £97 million.

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Stephen Lotinga (Neil Walker/Publishers Association/PA)

Stephen Lotinga (Neil Walker/Publishers Association/PA)

Stephen Lotinga (Neil Walker/Publishers Association/PA)

Digital sales income rose by 4% to £2.8 billion, while print sales went up 3% to £3.5 billion.

Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said there is still a “real desire and love for physical books”, adding that they are a “convenient format”.

“The ability to be able to pick up a book is something that is very welcome to a lot of people, especially when they spend their entire day looking at a screen, so it is a form of escapism,” he said.

“But also publishers have invested a lot into the covers and designs of books so that they look attractive and appealing in people’s homes.”

There is something very special about gifting a book, particularly with children, which I think you don't quite get in the same way as you would from a digital bookStephen Lotinga

Mr Lotinga added that people buying books as presents also helps to account for the rise in physical sales.

“There is something very special about gifting a book, particularly with children, which I think you don’t quite get in the same way as you would from a digital book,” he said.

Sales of non-fiction and reference books also rose by 6% to a total value of £1 billion.

Mr Lotinga said disinformation online is “playing a part” in the upsurge in sales, adding: “I think having reliable sources of information is more important than ever.

“When you have got information all around you and at your fingertips, knowing that there are either particular authors or particular brands… which you feel you can rely upon is increasingly important.”

The UK publishing industry was on course to be worth £10 billion by 2030 before coronavirus, but that will only happen now if the government properly supports our recoveryStephen Lotinga

While 2019 was a good year for the industry, he added that coronavirus has caused problems for publishers.

While some have benefited from the lockdown, Mr Lotinga said other businesses, particularly small and medium-sized publishers, have struggled.

He said that for the industry to continue to thrive the Government must support businesses and secure a Brexit deal that ensures access to export markets.

“The UK publishing industry was on course to be worth £10 billion by 2030 before coronavirus, but that will only happen now if the Government properly supports our recovery,” he said.

“This means ensuring there is a fair market for books – particularly support for book shops, 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.”

PA