International publishers are hoping that increasing demand for English-language books in India and China will help the industry recover from the recession and further expand:
A combination of the recession, which has pared back consumer spending, and a longer-term demographic change brought about by a fall-off in population, is hitting book sales in the US and Britain. Both markets are still the largest for English language publishers, but growth has stalled. The US market was worth an estimated $24.3bn in 2008 while sales in Britain were about £3bn. Last year, book sales by volume in the US dropped 6% on 2007, while in value terms the drop was 2.5%. In Britain the drop was more pronounced, with the volume of books down 4% and value down 6%, spurred lower by aggressive price competition in the major book chains and supermarkets.
In contrast, overseas English language markets are positively booming. India is the world’s third largest English language book market and has been growing at about 10% per annum for several years. Research by UK Trade & Investment (UKT&I), which is using the Book Fair to encourage British publishers to export more, and the Publishers Association estimates that the market was worth about £1.25bn in 2007, with publishers estimating that about half that amount was English language books.
The Chinese market was worth about £7bn in 2007 – with almost a quarter of a million titles producing a total print run of 6.3bn copies – but its English-language market is small by comparison with India and UK exports to the country run at about £10m.
See also past CDT posts on publishing.