British publishing breaks revenue records but textbook sales are hit

British publishing houses broke all previous revenue records in 2017 to see their collective sales rise 5% to £5.7bn, driven by a growth in export sales which now account for 60% of publishers’ revenues. However, while most areas of business performed robustly, domestic sales of textbooks to schools took a 12% hit, revealing that savage public sector cuts are starting to bite in the education. Sales of children’s books also slid by 3%, while domestic sales of consumer e-books plunged by 9%.

The statistics have been revealed in the Publishers Associations’ PA Publishing Yearbook 2017, which records publishers’ invoiced sales. This year the revenue gained from co-edition, rights and licensing sales has been included to give a more accurate reflection of earnings and help to underline the sector’s position as a “powerhouse of the creative industries,” according to PA c.e.o. Stephen Lotinga.

Altogether total book sale income (physical and digital) was up 4% in 2017 to £3.7bn. Physical book sales continue to outpace digital, with revenue up 5% last year to £3.1bn, while total digital sales income including journals rose 3% to £1.8bn. However, stripping out journals, digital book sales are down by 2% to £543m and consumer e-book sales are down even further by 7% to £191m. In the domestic consumer market e-book sales dived even deeper, down 9% to £139m and within that fiction e-book sales were down 11%, although non-fiction e-books were up 4%, showing that consumers are increasingly reading cookbooks, illustrated and reference books on devices. The figures mean consumer e-books account for 35% of the invoiced value of UK publishers’ digital sales in 2017, down from 51% in 2013.

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