Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Today my UK publishers, HarperCollins, announced that they will be making redundancies. I suppose this is no great surprise, since they've already had a freeze on hiring new staff, restricted pay increases, and halved their travel and entertainment expenses (which, in publishing, can be considerable!).

HC are one of the biggest publishers in the UK. But the economic crisis is global, and some of the big New York publishing houses seem to be in even bigger trouble. Here, independent bookshops like Murder One are closing, and some of the problems for publishers have been caused by the collapse of distributors like EUK, owned by the doomed Woolworth's.

But I like to bring a bit of good news in this blog, to lighten the doom and gloom. So what are we to make of the latest figures, which show that the number of new books published in the UK actually increased during 2008 by 4 per cent?

The rise in output has surprised some industry observers. But that might be because they've only be looking at the major trade publishers like HarperCollins, Penguin, Hodder Headline etc, who have been trimming their lists. Because quietly going on at the same time has been a big surge in self-publishing, and in the activities of what I see are now being called 'cottage publishers'. I suppose these latter might include two small, but perfectly formed, publishers in my neck of the woods - Five Leaves Publications, who publish the Crime Express series, and Creme de la Crime. It's great to see them doing well.

Incidentally, those figures for 2008 also include ebooks, which have been about to take over the publishing world for almost 10 years now (my first ebook was published back in 2000).

The other interesting aspect is the difference between book production in the UK and in the USA. The most recent figures show 276,649 new books published annually in the USA, compared to 120,947 in the UK. Since the population of the States is around five times our size, my dubious maths give me:
2 books per 1,000 people in the UK
1 book per 1,000 people in the USA

Of course, American readers might well be reading better books. The celebrity biographies show no sign of diminishing here at the moment...

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