2019 was the biggest year ever for UK publishing

NewsPress Release
publishing industry statistics

The invoiced value of UK publisher sales of books, journals and rights/coeditions combined rose to £6.3bn in 2019, 4% higher than in 2018 and 20% higher than in 2015.

The Publishers Association’s new figures show growth in both print and digital sales income. Exports remain crucial to the success of the industry, with export sales income accounting for 59% of total sales income.

Key statistics from the Publishers Association Yearbook 2019 include:

  • Print sales income up 3% to £3.5bn
  • Digital sales income up 4% to £2.8bn
  • Home sales income up 4% to £2.4bn
  • Export sales income up 3% to £3.7bn
  • Consumer audiobook downloads sales income up 39% to £97m
  • Non-fiction and reference sales income up to 6% to £1bn

Stephen Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association, said:

“Before the coronavirus pandemic the UK’s publishing industry was flourishing with 2019 being the strongest year in the history of publishing. These robust figures reflect people’s ongoing need and desire for books.

“The UK publishing industry was on course to be worth £10bn by 2030 before coronavirus, but that will only happen now if the government properly supports our recovery. This means ensuring there is a fair market for books – particularly support for bookshops, avoiding a no-deal Brexit and providing vital funding for schools and universities so they can buy the education resources that students need to learn remotely.

“Our 2019 Yearbook figures tell a story of pre-Covid success, but they do not reflect the significant challenges that publishers have faced during this pandemic. Despite those difficulties, we know that many people have continued to look to books for solace, enlightenment and entertainment.”

How did consumer publishing perform?

  • Total sales income across print and digital was up 3.5% to £2bn.
  • Print sales income was up 3.3% to £1.6bn.
  • Digital (ebooks and audiobook downloads) sales income was up 4.6% to £336m.
  • Fiction sales income down 1.1% to £582m.
  • Export sales made up 32% of consumer sales income in 2019. Australia is consumer publishing’s biggest export market.

How did academic publishing perform?

  • Total sales income from academic & professional books and journals combined was up by 1.3%, to £3.3bn, this is 25.8% higher than 2015.
  • Digital formats (ebooks, e-journals, online subscriptions, learning management systems, etc) accounted for 70% of the total invoiced value of combined academic & professional book and journal sales, up from 63% in 2015.
  • Exports made up 72% of academic books & journals income in 2019.

How did education publishing perform?

  • Sales income from education books (school and English Language Teaching combined) rose by 12.7% in 2019, to £657m. 
  • Home sales of education books in print and digital were flat in 2019 but have dropped 12.7% since 2015.
  • Print sales income was up 11.8%.
  • Digital (ebooks, online subscriptions and learning management systems combined) was up 23.8%.
  • Export sales made up 72% of education publishing’s income.

How did exports perform in 2019?

  • Exports were up 3.3% against 2018. Exporting is crucial to the publishing industry with export sales income accounting for 59% of total sales income.
  • Europe is our largest export region for printed books and accounted for 36% of the invoiced value of exports.
  • Consumer publishing: Australia is the biggest export market. Fiction exports to China were fast-growing (up 26.4%), non-fiction exports have grown significantly in Poland (71.2%) and Netherlands (up 38.2%) and Canada was the fastest-growing major export market for children’s books (up 52.3%).
  • Education sector: UAE is the biggest export market for school books while the fastest growing major export market is Kuwait (up 92.7%) followed by Oman (up 89.1%) and Turkey (up 60.3%). Spain is the largest export market for English Language Teaching while the fastest-growing markets include Russia (up 110.9%), and Peru (up 58.9%).
  • The US is the biggest export market for academic and professional books. Sales income from exports of social science and humanities books to Singapore were up 19.9% while the fastest growing export market for science, technical and medical books was Canada (up 51.2%).
  • The largest export region for learned journals is North America while the fastest-growing is sub-Saharan Africa (up 9.6%).

You can find more information about the Publishers Association Yearbook 2019 here.