Stephen Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association, reflects on the past year in publishing


This annual report should have been a moment to celebrate an amazing year in 2019 where the Publishers Association managed to achieve a huge amount for its members and built the bedrock of a campaign, which subsequently led to the removal of VAT on ebooks. However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that as I write this the whole country is in lockdown due to the outbreak of Coronavirus and many publishers are fearful for their very existence. As an association, we are well placed to support you through this period and will do everything we can to ensure that UK publishing remains the international success it has long been. 

Considering the extraordinary sequence of events that have happened over the last few years it is incredible that publishing has remained so resilient. While the nation looked inward as it tried to resolve the Brexit conundrum, we have sustained a global forward-thinking outlook, sustaining a £6 billion industry through the challenges posed by globalisation and digitisation. 

It is against the backdrop of deal-or-no-deal Britain that we asserted the importance of our gold standard copyright framework; the role of our industry in bolstering the nation’s hard and soft power, possessing both cultural and economic clout; and the vital need for high quality editorial in a media landscape marred by fake news. 

Our ability to demonstrate the continued value of publishing to the modern world was key to our successful Axe the Reading Tax campaign. Banding together with adjacent industries, we called on the Treasury to remove VAT from digital publications. Although we weren’t successful in 2019, our letter to the Chancellor lay the foundations for the next budget with the names of 90 MPs attached. 

We also delivered a robust events programme that put publishers in the room with MPs and Lords, alongside one-on-one engagement with our key ministerial stakeholders, and responded to key developments with detailed insight and guidance for both members and non-members to prepare them for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. 

Our strength – as an industry, as an association – was bolstered by 23 incoming members and the launch of a new associate membership offering, bringing 16 trusted suppliers into the fold. 

With their support, and yours, it has been a great privilege to lead this organisation and I am grateful to every member for their continued support.

This was originally published in the Publishers Association’s 2019 Annual Report.