Have we passed peak book?

Have we passed peak book? The uncoupling of book sales from economic growth

Angus Phillips, Director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies has published this new article in Publishing Research Quarterly - you can view the article here

The paper uses time series data on UK book sales to establish what correlation exists between the national income of a country and its sales of books. This is tested by comparing series data in real terms for GDP per capita and for various data series for the UK market, including sales invoiced by publishers and point of sale data on consumer purchasing. 

The first period, from 1985 to 1999, shows a strong relationship between total sales and GDP per capita. In the second period, from 2001 to 2015, the link appears to disappear when we examine invoiced sales from publishers, even before the impact of the 2008 crisis. This is also including the growth of digital sales towards the end of the period. The direct consumer data shows sales tracking GDP until the onset of the financial crisis; thereafter the only trade sector to have kept pace with GDP is children’s, and this contrasts with the areas of adult fiction and non-fiction. Have we therefore seen a structural shift in the book market? If we have passed peak book, what has brought about this uncoupling of book sales from economic growth? Factors are considered including changes in retail, competition from other media, and a prioritization of experience over the accumulation of stuff.

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