The UK Publishing industry is the number 1 exporter of books in the world. The market continues to grow with another record breaking year in 2018. The value of the UK publishing industry reached £6bn for the first time - with digital growth (up 3%) offsetting print decline (down 5%). A large proportion of this growth was again fuelled by export sales, rising to 59% of total sales income for 2018 (£3.5bn).
Physical sales dropped by 5% on last year to £3.4bn. Overall digital sales were up 3%. Consumer audiobook sales grew in 2018 by a massive 43% to £69m.
Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association said:
“UK publishing continues to satisfy the insatiable consumer appetite for books in all forms. Investment in digital is paying off, driving growth and meeting reader demand to access books at any time in the format of their choice. Despite good top line revenues, there are some areas of real concern. School textbooks sales have taken a hit as the continuing squeeze on school budgets mean that teachers simply can’t afford the learning resources children need."
(Source:The Publishers Association)
Current topical issues in the world of publishing you might find it interesting to research include:
- Disruption of traditional models of publishing via self-publishing online and Print-on-Demand.
- Publishers selling direct to the public through their own websites, rather than using a retailer.
- The power of the largest retailers, particularly Amazon and the large supermarkets and role in, and impact on the book trade.
- Start up contributors to the digital side of the industry: Scribd, Oyster, Bookmate, Lulu etc…
- Piracy and open-access journals and their impact on publishing.
- The effect Brexit may have on the industry.
- How publishers can address the challenges in increasing literacy and accessibility to books.
- The challenges of copyright and IP protection abroad.
- News of the ‘Big Five’ trade publishers – Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette Livre and Simon & Schuster.
The majority of the large book-publishing houses are based in the South. London is the major hub with Oxford and Edinburgh being significant regional centres. Smaller publishers exist in many locations within the UK.
The 'Big Five' publishers in the UK - Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette Livre and Simon & Schuster make up a significant portion of the market however there are many other employers ranging from the large Bloomsbury and Faber & Faber to the thousands of small companies operating in specialist areas such a poetry, art and local interest.
Types of publishing
Book publishing falls into three broad areas:
Consumer or trade publishing
Consumer or trade publishing produces the most widely-known titles: best-selling fiction and non-fiction; those most frequently reviewed; those featured in the media; and those prominently displayed in retail outlets. It also includes children’s publishing: it's worth noting that one in every three books is aimed at the children's market.
Consumer publishing is mostly sold through bookshops and online, e.g. via Amazon however a high proportion of children’s sales are made through non-traditional trade channels, such as children's school book clubs and fairs.
Big recruiters include: Penguin Random House, Pan Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins
Key areas include producing textbooks, online teaching resources and revision guides for schools, and ELT (English Language Training) material mainly aimed at overseas markets. Locally, Oxford Dictionaries is an important example of ELT books.
Big recruiters include: Pearson, Oxford University Press (OUP), Cambridge University Press (CUP) and Hodder Education (part of Hachette)
Academic and professional publishing
This area includes: academic texts, mostly sold to individuals; monographs, journals and other digital products, mostly sold directly to libraries. STM Publishing falls within this field and stands for ‘Scientific, Technical and Medical’. As the content is technical, having related experience or a relevant scientific or technical background can be useful when working in STM publishing. STM, as well as other elements from this area, serves the ‘professional’ market as well as the academic – consumers are doctors, accountants, and lawyers, for example, as well as students.
Big recruiters include: Lexis Nexis (RELX), Springer Nature, Informa, Taylor & Francis, SAGE, Elsevier, Pearson and Wiley.