The U.K. publishing industry had a record-breaking year in 2017, with income up 5% to £5.7 billion, according to figures released by the Publishers Association in its annual Yearbook. British publishing is already the number one exporter of books in the world and export income rose a further 8% to £3.4 billion in 2017, and now accounts for 60% of total revenues.
The headline figures are that total book sales income (physical and digital books) was up 4% to £3.7 billion; total digital (ie digital books and journals) was up 3% to £1.8 billion; total physical book sales income rose 5% to £3.1 billion; total journal sales income was up 5% to £1.6 billion, and total journal export income was up 5% to £1.4 billion.
The boom in exports has seen an increase in exports of both physical and digital books, up 7% to £1.6 billion while export sales income from journals has increased by 5% to £1.4 billion and rights, coeditions and licensing export income is £407 million.
There has been an 11% increase in the export sales income of nonfiction/reference physical and digital books, and sales of physical books to Europe increased 13% and to East and South Asia by 8%.
Export sales income from journals rose 10% to £565 million in North America, which is the largest international market for journals – accounting for 41% of the export market.
Aside from the export-led growth, the figures reveal a patchiness in the domestic publishing market. Although total digital sales income (digital books and journals) increased 3% to £1.8 billion, digital book sales income was down 2% to £543 million. Audiobook sales have risen sharply by 25%, but still remain relatively modest at £31 millon. The sale of school digital books rose 32%, suggesting that the use of digital teaching resources is becoming more prevalent.
Although children’s total physical and digital book sales income fell 3% to £341 million, fiction sales income (physical and digital) was up 3% to £547 million and non-fiction/reference sales income (physical and digital) increased 4% to £928 million.
Speaking on the BBC's Breakfast News on Thursday morning, PA chief executive Stephen Lotinga explained the fall in children's sales was due to the absence of a Harry Potter title in 2017, and pointed out that the category was up over the last five years.
In his official statement accompanying the Yearbook figures, Lotinga said: "These figures reveal another stellar performance from the
U.K. 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."
This story has been adapted from a piece that originally appeared in BookBrunch.