Publishers call for support to boost UK’s £11bn book industry

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UK book publishers have called on ministers to support the growth of the £11bn industry with tax cuts and policies to encourage exports.

Ahead of the London Book Fair this week — one of the biggest international publishing events for rights negotiations and sales — the Publishers Association has carried out research showing the value of publishing, which employs 83,000 people, to the UK economy.

But the Publishers Association said that the government could add billions to the sector and tens of thousands more jobs with policies to support the industry. The group represents the interests of companies in the UK including HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, Pearson, Pan Macmillan and Penguin Random House.

The publishing industry is going through a period of strong growth in the UK, with companies such as UK-listed Bloomsbury recently reporting record first-half results. Genres from fantasy novels — such as those written by Sarah J Maas and Samantha Shannon — to “cosy crime” that spans authors from Agatha Christie to Richard Osman, have underpinned booming sales. 

But many in the industry are worried about new threats, including the emergence of artificial intelligence that can imitate popular authors or duplicate copyrighted works. 

Publishers Association chief executive Dan Conway said the UK should not take the success of the industry for granted. “With an election on the horizon later this year, we ask politicians on all sides to recognise the publishing industry’s economic value to the UK. We must ensure we work together to . . . grow UK publishing’s economic and social contribution.”

The association said that the government and opposition MPs needed to ensure AI helped the whole economy and that its development did not come “at the expense of intellectual property and human creativity”. It called on ministers to “vigorously uphold the UK’s globally advantageous intellectual property and copyright framework”.

Other policies proposed included publishing export support for companies in the UK to market and sell their books around the world. Publishing exports were already worth £6.5bn to the UK economy, it said.

It also called on the government to axe audiobook and article and book processing charges, publication fees that it called the “final tax on reading”, and to invest in libraries and literacy.

Research conducted by public policy consultancy Public First for the Publishers Association forecast that such support could help the industry add an additional £5.6bn to the UK economy by 2033, and support a further 43,000 jobs. International demand for UK publishing is set to grow a further 20 per cent in the next decade, it said.

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the government would take a “balanced and pragmatic approach” to AI, adding: “Our multi-billion-pound publishing sector is the number one global exporter of books and a key part of our creative industries which we aim to grow by £50 billion by 2030.”


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