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UK book publishing market hit hard by technological innovations

Industry Sector

Publishing and Printing


1 March 2013


Matt Bodimeade

Type of News


The UK book publishing market is extremely mature, expanding at an average annual rate of 1% over 2006-2012, hitting a market value of £4.3 billion at the end of that six year period.

The United Kingdom is home to some of the oldest and most respected book publishers in the world. In fact, Cambridge University Press is the world's oldest publisher and has been operating continuously since 1584.

A good reputation and strong local copyright laws have made the United Kingdom the biggest exporter of books in the world.

Since the recession in 2009, value sales of books have dropped as consumers cut back on expenditure on non-essential items. Publishing industry sales have struggled to return to pre-recession levels as recovery in the economy has been minimal, a factor that continues to have an impact on consumers' spending priorities.

In addition, recent news that the economy contracted for 2 consecutive quarters during the end of 2011 and the start of 2012 is likely to have put further strain on the book publishing market as the economy remains weak.

Technological innovations have begun to change the composition of the book publishing market, as the launch of e-readers and their compatible e-books have reduced the demand for traditionally printed books.

This trend has most recently affected sales of consumer books -- the largest sector within the market -- however, e-books and e-journals have been used by academics and professional for some time, having an on-going negative effect on potential value sales, notably within further and higher education institutions.

The main buyers of the industry, constituting 71% of the total market, were households, followed by the education industry (6% share) and the public administration, defence and social security sector, with a 3% share in 2012. An increasing number of students in the UK's higher education institutions drove the spending of the education sector on the reviewed industry's services by 49% over 2006-2012.

The UK book publishing industry has a medium level of market share concentration with the top four companies estimated to account for about 41.5% of industry revenue in 2012-13.

The degree of concentration has increased since 2007 when the same four players accounted for 27.4% of the market. Major companies include Pearson, Hachette UK, Random House, HarperCollins and Reed Elsevier.

For more information on the UK book publishing market, see the latest research: UK Book Publishing Market

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