Reasons to be cheerful

<p>1: The sky did not fall on our heads<br />
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Despite the fact that 2009 was as tough a year as the publishing industry has had for a generation (and 2010 is unlikely to be easy) it really could have been worse. End of year figures putting overall volume sales a mere 0.5% down year on year before are remarkably strong when one considers that certain significant sectors of the market, such as non-fiction picture books have been entirely killed off by competition from the internet. It is arguable that when one takes into these areas of die-off, most of the book market has in fact grown in the recession. Books are and will remain to be a solid product. Feeding the mind remains a highly valued pursuit.<br />
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2: The success of the Independent Alliance<br />
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Again it is remarkable that in a recession the independent publishing sector should be as strong as it is and a clear indicator of the strength of the market for more traditional, higher end books. In part of course the independent publishers are buoyed by the bigger publishers&rsquo; aversion to certain types of book, particularly in non-fiction and this has led to them having much richer picking than at many points in the past. It is also a reflection of the value in selling low discount books. <br />
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3: It remains easier than ever to buy a book<br />
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Despite the gloom on the high street, despite the hub, these are good times for book buyers. Not only has it has never been easier to buy a book, but there are very real signs that a significant number of consumers understand the value of (and are prepared to pay for) full price books. Foyle&rsquo;s recent figures are strongly indicative of the distinction in people&rsquo;s minds between what might be called organic or free range books and the value own brands on sale in supermarkets. Not only is this a significant marketing opportunity, but what value an independent book seller&rsquo;s alliance?<br />
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4: The E-book hasn&rsquo;t landed/failure of the Google settlement<br />
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A good part of the anxiety of 2009 has been the fear of the electronic future and the worry that the book business faced a similar, grim future to the music business. Not only does Google&rsquo;s attempted land grab &ndash; which for some considerable time vast swathes of the industry seemed bizarrely passive about &ndash; largely looks to have failed, but e-books too have signally failed to overwhelm the world. There has been no iPod moment and despite the threat of piracy as long as e-book remain an expensive folly for early adopters we have still got a few years yet when traditional books continue to be the mainstay of the business. The revolution has been postponed and with every month that passes it looks increasingly likely that we will not suffer the kinds of revenue drop that have so damaged other creative industries.<br />
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5. Everybody wants a piece of the action.<br />
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Which is not to say the age of the e-book isn&rsquo;t coming, it is. Once the convergent device that the iPad nearly is does finally arrive then we really will be in the age of the e-book. What is so exciting about that device is that for all the worlds largest electronics companies, from Google to Microsoft to Vodaphone and on, the holy grail is convergence and for the next five years that will be the biggest game in town. Books are going to play an absolutely crucial role in that game. Providing exclusive content will be of huge significance to hardware manufacturers. When was the last time the book business had some of the worlds biggest corporations looking in at what we do with such interest?<br />
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6: Price inflation: <i>yay!</i><br />
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Possibly the biggest news of the new year (and that has had the least attention) is the fact that publishers have made a serious stride towards pricing paperback fiction at &pound;7.99. After years of price deflation it is hugely encouraging to see prices go up &ndash; no doubt it has been driven by the recession, and much of it will disappear on discounts, but nonetheless it is money on the bottom line and that has got to be good. It would be great if we could see a continuation of this: the publishers of Call of Duty, the biggest game of last year, slapped a five pound premium on the game so confident were they of their product. It would be terrific to see that same confidence creep in to books. They are an amazing product after all.<br />
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