Innovation, reinvention and profitability are all recurring themes in publishing articles we have read and conferences we have attended. Although there has been much to celebrate, reading opinions and topical articles written in national newspapers, we feel the overall message has an underlying negative tone. The recession storm has passed, but the publishing industry did not come out of it unscathed. There is a particular emphasis on the struggles of the physical book in the digital age and how publishing houses have been slow to react to market changes. Although the industry cannot afford to sit back and happily watch its empire grow, our experiences have led us to believe that publishing is thriving and its predicted demise is being held at bay.
It would be refreshing and inspiring to come across articles that more closely reflect the current publishing climate. Negativity doesn't inspire creativity and this could perhaps discourage young publishers from entering a challenging but rewarding career.
There are many examples that illustrate the strength of the print industry. As Britain recovers, the publishing industry has seen a rise in the sale of physical book. Paperbacks have a 42% share of unit sales and there has been a slight decline in digital formats. Readers are spending again, turning away from bargains, and buying hardbacks or good quality paperbacks. Books, once again, have become not just entertainment, but an object of desire.
Penguin Random House UK c.e.o. Tom Weldon recently said ‘what really defined 2014 was the importance of the quality of the [physical] book’. His comments reflect the surge in sales of the Collector Editions at Waterstones, and the continued success of Penguin Classics. At least two publishers are planning celebrity-endorsed 150th anniversary editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Even Mark Zuckerberg, one of the pioneering entrepreneurs of bite-size social media content, is encouraging his followers to read two new books a month through his online Bookclub, promoting both print and digital in his campaign for a wider variety of content. This is helping to bring books back into the limelight and taking the idea of the forgotten TV or physical book club and revamping it for a social, mass-media platform.
Publishing has definitely demonstrated that it is viable and undoubtedly valued by society as a whole. Judging by the statistics we read weekly, the industry is not in demise or turmoil, it’s flourishing. We should celebrate the passion of readers wanting quality content rather than focusing on preconceived ideas that the book has had its day. As publishers, we are not counting our last days, but merely finding our feet in this ever-transforming world.
Imogen Dickens, 27, and Philip Mills, 22, are MA students in publishing at Anglia Ruskin University
This blog is part of a series of monthly blogs written by publishing students