The UK Publishers Association (The PA) released new figures on Friday that shows book lovers in the UK continue to prefer a print copy over an ebook, with total sales of book and journal publishing growing to GBP4.4bn last year.
This is reportedly the first time since the invention of the ebook that overall physical book sales increased over sales of digital publications.
Sales of physical books from publishers were higher for the first time in four years, while digital sales fell for the first time since The PA began to collate book industry figures representing publisher invoice sales.
Export revenues were slightly lower by 3% at GBP1.42bn, with two thirds of this figure accounting for education, academic and ELT (English Language Teaching) books. Growth was achieved in sales to the Middle East and North Africa, Asia and South America, while Europe continues to be the most important export market for UK publishing, accounting for over 35% of physical book export revenues.
Sales of physical non-fiction/reference books achieved a significant increase of 9% to GBP759m. Also, academic journal publications saw strong growth, with sales up by 5% to GBP1.1bn, however digital revenues accounting for 95% of this figure.
Overall sales of school books increased by 9% to GBP319m, with both physical and digital publications seeing growth at home and abroad.
Downloads of audiobooks also achieved a good year, with 29% growth in 2015.
Chief executive of The PA, Stephen Lotinga, commented: “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.”
Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey MP, also remarked: “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.”
The Publishers Association is the UK’s leading trade organisation that serves book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in Britain. Its membership is comprised of 120 companies from across the trade, academic and education sectors.