Over the last few years, the publishing industry has seen many changes in trends for what people are reading and buying, but also the formats they are choosing to read. With a rise in popularity of audiobooks and digital publishing, could this trend signal the beginning of the end for printed books?
Digital publishing vs. printed books
Research by Statista shows that revenue from digital books in the UK has increased exponentially over the last decade, topping £710 million during 2019. However, sales data from 2021 paints a positive picture for real print books, with sales steadily increasing and soaring to their highest in a decade, reaching over 212 million print books sales in 2021.
A survey conducted by Nielsen Book Research shows that despite the continued growth of digital books, most people who read books generally prefer hard copies over any other format. Digital publishing is here to stay with no signs of slowing down, but for many book lovers, paperbacks and hardbacks stand their ground and remain the popular choice.
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Children’s Publishing Trends in the UK
Children’s book sales in the UK have seen a steady increase, with online sales in particular remaining strong. The total online expenditure throughout 2021-22 and over the next 5 years is estimated to increase annually and reach over £112.3 billion. This growth has been accelerated by the accessibility and convenience for many that shopping online offers.
Areas which saw an uptake in children’s publishing during 2021 were non-fiction and general interest, especially on themes such as science and nature, and culture. This may be in part due to many having to homeschool during the lockdowns, but in general there has been a growing trend for these topics in children’s publishing over the last few years.
Books with inspirational themes are a rising trend in children’s publishing, with picture books, pre-school and early readers about topics which encourage children to face their fears, have hope, and be proactive in making the best of their situations. A surge in mindfulness books helping children to tackle big emotions and navigate stressful situations has also been seen over the past few years, understandably given the uncertainties we have all been faced with.
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What can we expect in 2022?
If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that being flexible and adaptable in the face of change is key. The same is true for publishing heading into 2022. CEO of UK Publishing for Bauer Media, Chris Duncan, said that:
“2022 will be a year where organisations will need to match the speed of these market transformations with the speed of their own ways of working; evolving both culture and capability at pace will be critical.”
Publishers and booksellers will need to remain dynamic and responsive to the changing landscape of publishing in order to stay afloat and get ahead.
With the recent hype over TikTok as the next big thing in marketing and advertising, the rise of BookTok during 2021 is set to grow in 2022 as more publishers and authors recognise the value of this platform for promoting new books and generating engagement from fans.
As we head into 2022 and look to the future of publishing, it appears that digital forms of buying, promoting and reading books are here to stay. But for bibliophiles, the joy of reading and shopping for printed books is something which cannot be replaced. Rather than printed books making way for digital formats, the digital world is set to instead work alongside hard copy books, offering consumers and readers different ways to discover new authors and new booksellers to buy from.
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Melissa Brannlund is the features writer and editor, for Green Bean Studios.
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