Digital sales down 19%, but print strong for trade publishers in first half

Digital sales down 19%, but print strong for trade publishers in first half

Trade publishers’ digital revenues have fallen by 19% in the first six months of the year, but print sales are holding strong, new figures from the Publishers Association (PA) have revealed.

Sales data provided to the PA by UK publishing houses across trade, education and academic sectors show that print sales increased by 1% in the first six months of the year (January-June 2016) to £898m in comparison to the same period a year earlier, driven in particular by a 6% growth of trade books.

However, digital sales have declined 7% year-on-year across the board to £182m, driven by a marked decline in digital revenue for trade publishers, which was down by a steep 19%. Digital revenues for education and English Language Teaching publishers by contrast were strong, up 32%, whilst academic/professional digital revenues were also up, by 9%.

Overall, book sales when combining physical and digital, have remained the same.

Audiobook sales continue to boom, with downloads increasing year-on-year by 24% to £6m, the figures also revealed. Non-fiction and reference print books sales saw marked growth in the period, up 13.3% to £281.2m, and schools publishing has also performed well, with physical and digital sales up by 7%. Children’s print book sales continued to perform strongly in the first half of 2016, up by 5%.

In a half-year dominated by the looming European Union Referendum, which came at the end of the period on 23rd June, UK publishing export sales were down marginally by 1.5% to £465.5m. However, within this, digital export sales rose by 7%.

Despite, the overall drop, Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o of the PA, said the figures confirmed the success of the publishing industry as a “strong exporter” and showed that the industry has an “important role to play in the UK’s post-Brexit future” at a time of uncertainty.

He said: “Last year we saw the first sign that the UK’s love for print is far from over. Today our half year results show that this was not a one off phenomenon. Publishers are increasingly using digital tools to make content more adaptable, personal and accessible than ever before. But there is a unique pleasure in reading a physical book, and these figures show that consumers are finding that this is not something digital books can easily replace.

“These figures confirm the success of the publishing industry, particularly as a strong exporter. At a time of uncertainty following the vote to leave the European Union, it is clear that the publishing industry has an important role to play in the UK’s post-Brexit future.”