Book trade executives are optimistic and bullish about 2017, despite the political uncertainty of Brexit, looming European elections and Donald Trump taking up office in the US this month.
Publishing chief executives, leading agents and booksellers have given their predictions for the year ahead, with the overall outlook positive on the back of a second consecutive year of rising print sales.
Opportunities for the trade include an increase in export sales following a decline in the value of the pound, desire to read deeper non-fiction books in a so-called “post-truth world” heralding a “golden era” for the genre and the continuing boom in audio book sales –with Hacehtte UK chief executive Tim Hely Hutchinson predicting a 25% year-on-year growth in the format in 2017.
Ethnic diversity numbers will increase across the industry, foresees Pan Mac c.e.o Anthony Forbes Watson and the trade will then turn its head towards economic diversity in its staff. HarperCollins’ c.e.o Charlie Redmayne believes that the diversity initiatives of 2016 will continue in 2017, "fundamentally changing the look of our industry and the books which we produce - ultimately growing our businesses and making us more relevant to the society in which we live”.
Meanwhile, the perennial quest of how to reach new readers in an unpredictable age will be the focus for Penguin Random House’s chief Tom Weldon.
Booksellers are looking forward to the strong publishing by houses coming into fruition, which may help to offset higher business rates incurred by the re-evaluation coming into effect in April. Bricks and mortar stores will continue to focus on in-store-theatre and will look forward to marking 20 years since the publication of J K Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel (Bloomsbury). Meanwhile, trade bodies including the Publishers Association and Society of Authors will continue to fight for copyright protection as the UK extracts itself from the European Union.
While the outlook for library numbers amid tight local council budgets continues to be grim, CILIP c.e.o Nick Poole said that he thinks the services will do “more than ever to engage with and support their communities” in the lead up to the first annual Libraries Week in October 2017.
While most are optimistic about the year ahead, there are some who are concerned about its prospects, particularly taking into account wider political events.
“Anyone who is optimistic about a world where a homophobic, racist, lying braggart is the president of the most powerful country in the world, and where Britain deserts its friends and allies in Europe is missing the greater part of their cerebral cortex,” according Profile’s c.e.o Andrew Franklin.