In 2020 books were a powerful comfort in stressful and uncertain times. Whether it was home-schooling children due to school closures, escaping reality via fiction, or learning new skills. So as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded it is not surprising it was also a rollercoaster year for the New Zealand publishing industry.
The latest New Zealand Publishing Market Size Report 2020, completed by Nielsen Book Research for the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ)/ Te Rau o Tākapu shows publishers have proved remarkably buoyant, despite the turmoil of bookstore closures, shipping delays and cancelled author events.
The report highlights the $302.2 million contribution the publishing industry makes to New Zealand’s creative economy, an increase of 3% on 2019.
Growth came from several sectors―all New Zealand-published content sold domestically grew 13% year-on-year, digital formats for the general consumer market grew 15% by volume, and the online sales channel experienced an uplift of 60% by value.
This growth in digital revenue was accelerated by both bookstore and library closures during the pandemic affecting access to new print titles. But despite the market evolving to meet conditions and the gains seen in digital formats, Kiwis still have a strong preference for physical print books.
In 2020, print book sales increased 6% to $135.3m, accounting for a 90% volume share of the total market.
Both children’s books and the fiction category experienced value growth around 10%, but Kiwis clearly wanted the comfort and escape of fantasy worlds, as non-fiction recorded a slight value decline of 1%.
There was continuing growth in Māori-language publishing, with the data showing a 24% increase in unit sales on 2019.
The figures are not as rosy in the export sector, with a 13% decline in earnings from New Zealand content as access to international markets, rights fairs and other routes to market were curtailed during the pandemic. This drop was particularly felt in the educational publishing sector which faced a reduction in exports to the US and UK, however exports to other markets grew in 2020, with content sent to Australia up 12% and Asia increasing by a significant 39%.
“In the post COVID-19 world, we hope to consolidate the gains made as more consumers rediscover the pleasure of reading. Our job now is to rebuild our export markets, which provide vital income for New Zealand authors and publishers alike, while restrictions to international travel persist,” says Immediate Past President, PANZ Julia Marshall.