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Strong year for UK publishing industry as it grows to £4.4bn

Strong year for UK publishing industry as it grows to £4.4bn

Friday 13 May 2016 

New figures released today by The Publishers Association shows that the UK publishing industry is in good health with total sales or book and journal publishing up to £4.4bn in 2015. The figures also revealedthe UK’s love affair with the printed book is far from over as for the first time since the invention of the ebook, overall physical book sales increased while digital sales decreased.

Highlights of the research include:

  • Sales of physical books from publishers increased for the first time in four years while digital sales fell for the first time since The PA started collecting figures
  • Export revenues dropped slightly by 3% to £1.42bn with education, academic and ELT (English Language Teaching) accounting for two thirds of this
  • There was particularly strong growth in sales of physical non-fiction/reference books which saw sales increase by 9% to £759m
  • Academic journal publishing also continued strongly up by 5% to £1.1bn with digital revenues accounting for 95% of this
  • School books sales were up overall by 9% to £319m with growth in physical and digital both home and abroad.
  • Audiobook downloads had another good year with 29% growth in 2015.

Commenting, The Publishers Association Chief Executive, Stephen Lotinga, said:

“These figures show that the UK publishing industry continues to go from strength to strength and the UK’s love for print is far from over.  

“Digital continues to be an incredibly important part of the industry, but it would appear there remains a special place in the consumer’s heart for the aesthetic pleasure that printed books can bring.

“UK publishing leads the world in terms of exports, but the small drop last year is a reminder of the importance of having certainty in the relationships with our most important markets.

“2015 was a great year for learned journals sales and demonstrates the strength of academic publishers in driving new innovative business models that contribute towards maintaining the UK’s position as a hub of global research excellence. 

“The performance of educational publishers, who saw increased sales across all formats, both at home and overseas, is testament to the outstanding learning resources the UK continues to create.    

“Whether it be the latest fiction bestseller, our world renowned scientific journals or textbooks for the classroom, the UK publishing industry continues to punch well above its weight.  At a time when the Government is looking for world leading sectors to drive growth in the UK economy, they could do a lot worse than look to the success of our publishing industry.” 

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, said:

"The UK's publishing industry is a huge success story, and I'm delighted the sector is continuing to flourish. The publishing industry contributes £10.2bn a year to the UK economy, and these latest figures are welcome news, particularly in a year when we're celebrating one of the UK's most famous literary exports, William Shakespeare."


  1. The Publishers Association is the leading trade organisation serving book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK. Membership comprises 120 companies from across the trade, academic and education sectors.
  2. The Publishers Association Statistics Yearbook is the industry’s annual authoritative analysis of the performance of the publishing sector.Copies and/or specific chapters can be bought from The PA’s website
  3. The UK book and journal publishing industry grew by 1.3% from £4.3bn in 2014 to £4.4bn in 2015. These figures represent publisher invoice sales.
  4. Physical sales were up by 0.4% to £2,760bn in 2015 from £2,748 in 2014 which was the first rise in four years. Digital sales were down 1.6% to £554m in 2015 from £563m in 2014 which was the first drop in seven years (when such sales were first recorded).
  5. Total book export revenues were £1.42bn in 2015 (42% of total books revenues), slightly down from 2014, and a combination of education, academic and ELT (English Language Training) accounted for two thirds of this. Growth was seen in sales to the Middle East and North Africa, Asia and South America.Europe remains UK publishing’s most important export market, accounting for over 35% of physical book export revenues.