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UK holds record for titles per capita

9 February 2015

Figures just released by the International Publishers Association show that Britain produces more books per capita than any other country in the world. Last year 184,000 titles were produced - the equivalent of 2,870 titles per million inhabitants when population is taken into account. These figures only cover books published by publishers and exclude self-published work, which might well change them substantially.

Richard Mollet, CEO of the UK Publishers Association, said Britain was showing no signs of slowing down, despite the rise in production in Australia, where titles rose by a third last year to 1,176 per million inhabitants. (Australia used to be treated as part of the British market.)

"There are a few historical, cultural reasons behind it," he said ."We have a great storytelling tradition. We've got centuries of publishing history and a vibrant creative economy."

The USA, with a considerably larger population, produced 304,912 titles last year. China, with the largest population of all, produced 444,000. Amongst other countries with a high number of new books published per capita are Taiwan, Slovenia, Spain, Georgia and the Czech Republic.

Is it a good thing to have such a high number of books published, relative to the size of the population? Does it suggest a very bookish set of people or great interest in culture? Well, not necessarily, as reading levels per head are not especially high in the UK. Part of it must relate to a high level of book exports, possibly higher than anywhere else. This has traditionally been the case with the far-flung British market established after the war (see Inside Publishing on the traditional Elnglish-language market) but now the reason has more to do with the worldwide use of the English language. Although American publishers are now more interested in the international market than they used to be, for them it is not such a key element, given their large and relatively wealthy home market.

Jakub Marian's rather idiosyncratic statistical maps show the number of books published per year per capita by country in Europe.