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Books published in English soar to 381,250

9 February 2009

HarperCollins' worldwide sales have plunged 25% in the last quarter, with book publishing income falling 65 percent to $23 million. Partly this is in comparison to last year when the company had a trio of bestsellers, and HarperCollins UK CEO Victoria Barnsley insists that that the company's UK sales increased by 13.5% in this period.

News Corporation is having a difficult time because of the structural difficulties in the newspaper world. Rupert Murdoch said: 'We are implementing rigorous cost-cutting across all operations and reducing head count where appropriate' and added: 'This is the worst global economics crisis we witnessed since NewsCorp was established more than 50 years ago.'

Against this gloomy backdrop it is surprising to report that the number of new books published in the UK increased by 4% last year to120,947, which, while it remains below the record 129,762 recorded in 2003, is still a huge number. This figure also includes ebooks, which are beginning to have some impact on the figures.

Whilst the big publishers have been cutting their lists, as the HarperCollins news suggests, there has been a surge in activity from very small publishers and from self-publishers. In 2008, there were applications for ISBN prefixes from 2,842 new publishers - slightly down on the 2007 figure, but 20% ahead of 2001. This reflects the ease of entry into the publishing world, now that print on demand is generally available and a small publisher can start up without needing as much capital as in the past.

The figure of 120,947 does not include English-language titles published overseas and distributed in the UK, which would bring the figure for new English-language books published worldwide in 2008 up to 381,250 - a whopping 31% increase on 2007. Behind this figure there is a real and cheering increase in publishing in English-speaking countries across the world.

Finally, it's astounding to note that the 2007 figure for US title output (the latest available) was 276,649. In other words, the US, a country with five times the population of the UK, produces only just over twice as many books, so far less per head of population. But the big change internationally is that difficulties with finding a big publisher to take on your book no longer mean that you're completely stuck - small presses and self-publishing offer other alternatives.