But less encouraging news from Germany
Publishing was in a state of "arrested decline" and seeing "small gains", said Charlie Redmayne, ceo of HarperCollins UK, in the keynote speech of The Markets conference of the Frankfurt Book Fair on Tuesday morning. Redmayne went on to recall a conversation he'd had with an executive from Apple a decade ago: the executive had predicted that print books would all but disappear in a generation or two. "But the physical book didn't go away," said Redmayne, "nor was it ever going to."
Overall, Redmayne observed, UK publishing was experiencing growth, driven by the explosive interest in audiobooks and renewed efforts on the part of publishers to help established brands find new audiences. Redmayne cited HarperCollins UK's success with Gill Sims' bestseller Why Mummy Drinks, which originated as a Facebook blog, as an example of such activity; he also touted the $250 million deal between HC, the Tolkien estate, Amazon Studios and New Line Cinema to bring a new adaptation of The Lord of the Rings to the streaming service.
While acknowledging that streaming services in particular posed stiff competition for consumers' discretionary spending and free time, he noted that the streaming content originated from "a startling number of people who write books". He also noted that more than half of the top films in the UK were themselves based on books.
Kyra Dreher of Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, the organisation that oversees German publishing and bookselling, had a different story to tell. Speaking as part of a panel during The Markets about the global book marketplace, she described the results of a survey conducted by the Börsenverein that revealed approximately seven million Germans had stopped buying and reading books in the previous year. Instead of reading, she said, people were "spending their time binge watching series and talking about them". In addition to being distracted by streaming entertainment, the survey revealed that readers were growing reticent to give books as gifts because they "represented a significant time-commitment" - something she said was "especially worrying".
However, the news from The Markets was largely positive, with a half dozen further sessions showcasing the successes of young publishing entrepreneurs and established corporations from countries including Brazil, Canada, India and Georgia, this year's Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour.
André Breedt, managing director of Nielsen Book Research International, confirmed Redmayne's opening statement that the UK was seeing growth. "The UK market has seen growth of 0.5% so far in 2018," he said, adding that there was also growth across the rest of Europe, including Ireland (plus 6.3%), Spain (0.4%) and Italy (3.5%).