UK publishers say book sales in 2021 increased by 5%

The biggest format jump in the UK’s 2021 report was downloaded audio, up 14%. Sales of novels and children’s books increased by 7% each.

On the Northern Line at the London Underground extension to Battersea Power Station. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Simon Shepheard

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

Print and digital sales up 5% respectively

RReleased this morning (April 21) in London by the Publishers Association, the UK Industry Report 2021 shows a 5% gain in publisher sales last year to £6.7bn (8 .75 billion), a record for the industry. These welcome figures include sales of books, journals, rights and co-publishing.

In terms of revenue, the jump was 7% or £2.7 billion (US$3.5 billion), with total exports increasing by 2% to £3.8 billion (4 .9 billion US dollars).

A quick-read ‘Publishing in 2021’ infographic version of the report’s main points notes that the gains British industry is celebrating not only happened in the key second year of the still-ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but also as the industry was hampered by “widespread and ongoing challenges with the global supply chain.”

Perminder Mann

Referring to this success, Bonnier Books CEO Perminder Mann, who is the Chairman of the Consumer Publishers Council, said, “It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of books: in times of uncertainty, they offer comfort and escape, as well as excellent value for money.

“While social media [have] Long described as a distraction from reading, the #BookTok phenomenon has shown that these two forms of media need not compete, with TikTok’s organic community of book lovers continuing to drive list sales. front and back of editors.

Broken down into a few specific categories of format and genre, the association highlights these figures. Note in the attached chart the differences between domestic sales and exports.

Image: Publishers Association

In formats:

  • Total printing up 5% to £3.5bn (US$4.6bn)
  • Total digital up 5% to £3.2bn (US$4.2bn)
  • Audio downloads increased 14% to 151 million pounds ($197 million)

In content ratings:

  • Consumer bookings up 4% to £2.2bn (US$2.9bn)
  • Fiction up 7% to £733m (US$957m)
  • Non-fiction up 1% to £1.1bn (US$1.4bn)
  • Children’s books up 7% to 425 million pounds ($555 million)
Lotinga: “Regulate tech giants properly”

Stephen Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association, said: “2021 has been another great year for UK publishing.

Stephen Lotinga

“Our exceptional writers have provided readers with much-needed entertainment and comfort as the pandemic continues. It’s been especially exciting to see TikTok communities spark new interest in books, especially for fiction and YA titles.

He adds, without naming, “While the industry has done well during the pandemic, we have also seen further consolidation of sales into a single digital marketplace platform.

“Such a lack of competition cannot benefit readers in the long run and that is why it is more important than ever that the government delivers on its commitment to come up with new powers to properly regulate tech giants in the next speech of the Queen.”

Lotinga is referring here to the government’s Competition and Marketing Authority, which a year ago published its intent for its new Digital Markets Unit, an office designed “to operationalize the future pro-competitive regime for digital markets”.

General public, education, university publishing

In today’s media messaging, the association also presents some key figures for market performance in 2021 in consumer, educational and academic publications.

From these breakouts, you’ll notice a rare dip from today’s report as digital publishing edged down 1% in digital publishing in the first category, commercial publishing.

Trade Commercial Consumer publishing

Note the decline in exports to Germany. Last year, these three export markets were on the rise. Image: Publishers Association

  • UK market up 2% to £1.5bn (US$1.9bn)
  • Export market up 8% to £727m (US$949m)
  • Print up 5% to £1.8 billion (US$2.3 billion)
  • Digital down 1% to 416 million pounds ($543 million)

Educational publishing

Last year, the pictured markets for educational publishing were Spain, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, all three down. Image: Publishers Association

Here we see educational publishing sales remain below their 2019 level of £668 million (US$872 million), the only sector, according to the association, that has yet to recover to levels. of pre-pandemic performance.

    • Total education publishing revenue up 5% to £552m (US$720m)
    • UK market up 12% to £198m (US$259m)
    • Export market up 1% to £354m (US$461), and the association notes this is “well below £482m in 2019” (US$628m)
    • Print up 1% to £467m (US$609m), noted as ‘well below £606m in 2019’ (US$790m)
    • Digital up 28% to £85m ($111m)

Academic publishing

Last year’s illustrated markets in academic publishing were the United States, Germany and China. The United States and Germany were up, China was down. Image: Publishers Association

  • Total academic publishing revenue up 4% to £3.5bn (US$4.5bn)
  • UK market up 14% to £1bn (US$1.3bn)
  • Export market £2.4 billion (US$3.1), no change
  • Print £862 million (US$1.2 billion), no change
  • Digital up 5% to £2.6bn (US$3.4bn)
  • Pounds up 8% to £1.1bn (US$1.4bn)
  • Journals up 2% to £2.3bn ($2.9)

More information from the Association of Publishers is here.

Image: Publishers Association

Read more about Publishing Insights in the UK market here and read more about industry statistics.

To learn more about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on international book publishing, click here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.