2019 was another stellar year for consumer publishing


David Shelley, CEO of Hachette UK and Chair of our Consumer Publishers Council, writes about the highlights and trends for consumer publishing in 2019.

2019 was another stellar year for consumer publishing. Sales income was up 3.5% to almost £2bn and both print and digital formats saw increases. Taking a broader view, the picture remains incredibly positive – total income is up 12.9% since 2015.

Areas of the market excelling include audiobooks, a format continuing its meteoric rise. Last year saw a 39.3% increase (to £97m) for audiobook sales income. It is fantastic to see publishers experimenting and producing increasingly exciting and engaging audiobooks for a growing audience – many of whom have not bought our products before.

Another area of continued growth is non-fiction/reference which rose 5.6% in 2019, passing £1bn for the first time. In an age of often unreliable sources, people are increasingly looking to books for trusted information and are reading non-fiction voraciously across formats.

Home (UK) sales of consumer books across digital and print grew 4.4% in 2019 and were up 7.1% since 2015. Exports of consumer books grew by 1.6% and were up by a quarter since 2015. Australia is shown to be UK consumer publishing’s biggest export market across fiction, non-fiction and children’s.

Key titles of 2019 demonstrate the continuing cross-pollination of online platforms and publishing with Pinch of Nom by Kay Featherstone and Kate Allinson taking the title of best-selling book of 2019. David Walliams’ domination of the children’s charts continued. In fiction, Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other and Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, joint winners of the Booker prize, showed books at the very heart of cultural conversation.

Overall, these 2019 figures show the strength and vitality of our industry and the huge audience our products continue to have. 2020 has been more challenging than anticipated due to the global pandemic and publishing, like many other industries, will continue to face challenges.

However, early signs show that the market is holding up surprisingly robustly in the period since lockdown started – proving that people look to books for comfort, entertainment, information, and inspiration… an enduring need even in unsettled times.

This article originally appeared in the Publishers Association Yearbook 2019. Find out more information about this publication here.