Global publishing industry bouncing back from the pandemic, key report says

World Intellectual Property Organisation released its annual publishing industry report at the Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair is one of the largest publishing gatherings in the world. AFP
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The global publishing industry is making a concerted recovery in the wake of the pandemic, according to a report by the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

The report, focusing on the period between 2020 and last year, is extrapolated from various data supplied by some of the organisation's 193 member states, including the US and the UK.

According to the 23 countries surveyed, $71.6 billion was made in revenue last year, in comparison to the previous year's tally of $64.4bn.

Most member countries also reported higher revenues in 2021, led by the US and Italy with 13.6 and 12.2 per cent growth respectively

These figures, the report states, are in stark contrast to the period between 2019 and 2020 where a majority member countries registered a decline in revenues owing to the global spread of Covid-19.

In other preliminary findings shared at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Wednesday, the industry trend towards digitisation continued.

In data available from 14 countries, online sales generated more than two-thirds of total publishing industry revenue last year. The UK led the list with an 67.6 per cent annual increase.

A total of 26 countries also reported an increase in the number of titles published between 2020 and last year, with France and Brazil being the fastest-growing markets with 12.5 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

In the UK, on the other hand, the number of titles published decreased by 10 per cent.

The full findings from the report will be made available later in the year.

The International Publishers Association also contributed to the report and its president Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi described it as charting a way forward for the publishing industry as it rebuilds post-pandemic.

The recovery process was not all smooth sailing, she said.

"There has been an uneven market impact and recovery. Developed countries like France, Germany and the US experienced [a] significant decline in the initial pandemic wave and rebounded very quickly," she said.

"However, less developed publishing markets are still suffering to this day."

While encouraged by the increasing adoption of online practices, Sheikha Bodour urged book fair delegates to support smaller markets still struggling in making that digital transformation

"While the pandemic pushed all publishers to move into digital, not all of them managed to make that transition smoothly," she says.

“Many publishers, especially the smaller publishers coming from emerging markets, were very reliant on single clients, physical retail channels and the physical book market format.

They had problems with their supply chain, and so for them, digital transformation is a big challenge.”

Porter Anderson, editor of trade magazine Publishing Perspectives, expressed his delight with the report's findings that audiobooks are attracting more male consumers.

"One of the great struggles of our industry is to get guys to read as women do," he said.

"With audiobooks, they are listening more because they can do other things at the same time. In some markets, this is one of the features of digitisation that is hanging on. We have made a real gain here because guys are still getting their audiobooks and continuing to listen.”

Ronald Schild, chief executive of MVB, a marketing and research firm focusing on digital platforms and the metaverse, urges all facets of the industry — from authors and publishers to booksellers — to be cognisant of shifting market trends expressed in key reports published by the likes of the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

"There is a saying that data is the new oil and there is a lot of truth in that," he says.

"That starts from the bookshop level to decide where they can decide which books to order.

“We did a study to understand the underlying motives for reading and buying books. We shared that date to booksellers, who used it to purchase and arrange their books in a way to increase sales.”

Updated: October 19, 2022, 3:23 PM