The 2016 London Book Fair officially kicked off on Tuesday with a note of optimism from LBF director Jacks Thomas, who told attendees that after a few years of steady decline, U.K. book sales were on the rise.
“There are definitely glimmers of hope coming out of the U.K., and Ireland,” Thomas said at the Fair’s opening press conference, telling attendees that sales for 2015 were up 2.6% in Ireland, and 3.7% in the U.K. according to Nielsen. In addition, consumer book purchases were up a solid 5% in the U.K.
Globally, Thomas noted, sales in the U.S. are also in the rise, while continental Europe remains flat. Meanwhile South Africa and China came into the fair with booming markets. South African sales were up 18% in 2015, and sales in China up 13%.
Thomas also said the 2015 data bears out a “much talked about” digital tipping point, with print sales coming back to life in the U.K., up 4% in 2015, paced by strong sales of children's and young adult books. On the other hand, U.K. e-book sales were up just 4% in 2015, after posting increases of 17% in 2014, and 26% in 2013.
Audiobook sales were also hot in the U.K. last year, up 27%, with more than 60% of those sales in digital format.
“If you look at a three-year snapshot, 2013 and 2014 didn’t make for very happy reading,” Thomas said, pointing to declines in U.K sales for those years. “But we are now going in the right direction.”
Some 25,000 visitors are expected at this year’s London Book Fair, including hundreds of exhibitors from over 60 countries.