Digital growth will put a strain on bricks & mortar, says Orion's Roche

Digital growth will put a strain on bricks & mortar, says Orion's Roche

Orion chief executive Peter Roche has called increasing e-book sales "welcome" but cautioned that they will put "more of a strain on bricks and mortar" bookselling. Roche was speaking to hundreds of authors, agents and employees at Orion's annual authors party, held in the Paul Hamlyn Hall of the Royal Opera House in central London.

Reviewing the past year, he said: "2010 has been another interesting year for the publishing industry", referencing the collapse of Borders in the UK [at the end of 2009], followed by that of Irish bookselling chain Hughes & Hughes, and British Bookshops going into adminstration. He added: "We hope that in this sense 2011 will be very much less interesting".

He put e-book sales at "in the region of 1-2%" for Orion in 2010, and estimated that this could grow to 4% in 2011. Roche also said that, in December, sales of e-books were 500% larger than the previous year, growing substantially "albeit from a small base". He said that while sales of e-books were primarily in fiction, new e-book devices should help provide more of a platform for illustrated and children's books.

Speaking of the year ahead, Roche said: "We do expect 2011 to be another challenging year. It is amazing how in publishing, with all the challenges, we always come out on top", adding "I am personally optimistic".

He rounded off his speech by congratulating George Weidenfeld, who was unwell and could not attend, as well as Antonia Fraser and Julian Fellowes, who were at the party, for the recognition they received in the New Year's Honours list. Weidenfeld was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire for his public service, with Fraser granted a Damehood and Fellowes becoming a member of the House of Lords.

Looking ahead to 2012 and Orion's 20th anniversary, Roche promised the "party to end all parties" at the Natural History Museum.