Digital driving 2019 growth in academic publishing

Academic publishing in 2019

Liz Ferguson (VP Editorial Development at Wiley and Chair of our Academic Publishers Council) and Andrew Robinson (Director of Higher Education EMEA at Cengage Learning and Chair of our Higher & Further Education Publishers Council) write about the highlights and trends for academic and professional, higher and further education publishing in 2019.

2019 saw the invoiced value of combined UK publisher sales of academic and professional books and journals rise by 1.3%, to nearly £3.3bn – 25.8% higher than in 2015.

Digital is driving this growth in academic publishing, with a 4.2% rise in digital sales revenue in 2019 slightly outweighing a 4.6% print sales decrease and digital formats accounting for 70% of total invoiced value in 2019.

The figures also show just how integral exports are to academic publishing, accounting for a huge 72-73% of the total invoiced value of academic and professional books and journals combined.

Exports for these products were 0.9% higher in 2019 than 2018, while home sales income grew a positive 2.6%. The US, Germany and China are the countries with the largest export sales for academic and professional books.

Specifically on the books side, there was a 2.6% fall in invoiced value to £1.1bn, driven by a 4.6% drop in the value of printed book sales and despite a 2.7% rise in digital sales. This dip is less pronounced than in 2018 but still of concern.

Also, despite average invoiced price of printed academic/professional books declining for the second consecutive year, domestic sales increased by 3.6% in value in 2019 against 2018, offset by a decline of 12.2% in export sales value, partially attributable to currency fluctuations.

In terms of export sales of academic/professional books, exports were most impacted by reduced demand for SSH titles in many key markets, including Australia, UAE, South Africa and the US. STM titles, whilst still down by 3% on 2018, fared better, though printed titles were down in all regions except Europe.

Looking at journals, the total value of income from academic and professional journals rose by 3.5% to £2.2bn in 2019. Between 2015 and 2019, overall journal revenue grew by 42.9%. Again, we see this is driven by digital, with digital formats representing 75% of overall journal income in 2019.

The industry continues to see strong growth in revenues derived from open access publication charges while growth in subscription revenues slows. As with books, journals deliver considerable export sales. These grew by 4% in 2019 and now represent 85% of total journal income, with North America accounting for 40% of that export income.

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