News

CUP looks to digital

Cambridge University Press is anticipating that sales from digital products could account for two-thirds of sales by 2020, after its operating surplus increased by 50% to £5.1m.

In its annual report for the year to 30th April 2010, publishing sales were up 11.5% to £201.1m with total sales up 3.3% to £213.3m. Sales in its learning group, which includes material for teaching English as a foreign language, hit £100m for the first time. Academic sales were £64m and journal sales stood at £31m.

C.e.o. Stephen Bourne said: “The quality of publishing has improved markedly—some has been in print and some has been digital. The latter is making quite an impact.”

According to the publisher’s annual report, one-fifth of sales for its past financial year are for digital products. It said: “This figure could rise above two-thirds by 2020. These are exciting times, in which the future shape of Cambridge University Press will be defined.”

However, Bourne warned that academic publishers need to adapt their businesses, in the face of last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review and changes to tuition fees.

He said: “There are lessons to be learned from the Japanese market. They had a large number of universities and few students when it hit its recession. The level of book sales fell dramatically. The same model may well apply here. Another issue is universities having to cope with reduced library budgets.”

For its current financial year, CUP reported global sales in humanities and social sciences growing by 10% to £40m. It said music, language and linguistics, politics, economics and management and law all had sales growth in double digits.

Science, technology and medical publishing saw global sales increase by 8% to £22.7m. Physics had “its best year ever” and there was significant growth in computer science, earth science, engineering and medicine.

Bourne said government policy would affect what future students study, pointing out how the coalition had ring-fenced spending on science.  He said: “We have good news but of course in real terms funding will go down. It might have an interesting knock-on effect because if sciences are not being affected but overall university budgets are falling, what does that mean for the arts and humanities? We are strong in those subjects so it does raise questions for us rather than the Elseviers of this world.”

He said CUP was buffered by the resurgence of the American market, which had dwindled during that country’s recession. “We are looking at big cuts affecting the UK market,” he said. “Thankfully, we have the strong United States market and we are not seeing a similar risk in the rest of the world apart from continental Europe.”