Book trade in the United Kingdom
Book trade in the United Kingdom has its roots as far back as the 14th century, however the emergence of internet booksellers such as Amazon partnered with the introduction of the e-Book has drastically altered the scope of the industry. Book retailers such as the Borders Group have failed to adjust to these changes, thus there has been a steep decline in the number of operating traditional and independent bookshops. However, still heavily influential on the trade globally, British publishers such as Penguin Books and Pearson remain dominant players within the industry and continue to publish titles globally.
By the 14th century a commercial book trade had been established in the UK, and before printing was introduced to Europe by Johannes Gutenberg in 1439 the trade consisted of scribes who wrote manuscripts. By the early 15th century the majority of those engaged in these activities were situated in London and belonged to a trade guild called the Company of Stationers. By the 16th century publishers and printers controlled the book trade and introduced a commercial aspect, relying for much of their income on the sales of popular religious books, almanacs, prognostications and similar literature. By the 20th century, as literacy became increasingly universal within society and disposable income increased, publishers were faced with new opportunities. In 1900 the Net Book Agreement was introduced to ‘help to maintain a chain of stock holding bookshops while giving the publishers sufficient confidence to publish new titles’
The introduction and demise of the Net Book Agreement heavily impacted the publishing industry. First established in 1900, the Act involved an agreement between booksellers and publishers to fix the price of books in order to "help maintain a chain of stock holding bookshops while giving the publishers sufficient confidence to publish new titles"
The structure of the industry within the UK has altered significantly over the last few decades, which now establishes itself as part of wider industry globally dominated by international giants such a Pearson (UK), Muse Corporation (United States), and Hachette (France). The gap between small independent booksellers and giant chain sellers has vastly increased, leading to the dissolution of many medium-sized companies; "Overall the number of significant companies has dropped by ten percent in the last decade". Technology has extensively affected developments within the publishing industry. Due to having one of the highest levels of internet connectivity in Europe, the industry in the UK experiences the prevalent threat and the vast opportunity of revolutionary technological advances such as the e-book and Amazon; almost all book publishers in the UK now utilise the standard book number.
Bookshops have begun to decline over the years, with just over 73 closures in 2013 alone, the UK lost 7% of its remaining Independent book stores. The number of independent book shops has now fallen below 1,000 (2014) whilst even bigger booksellers such as Borders went into liquidation.
From 2014, brick and mortar shops have been performing better, seeing a light at the end of the Recession period and the boom of the Kindle. Looking at the data provided, Richard Mollet, chief executive of The Publishers Association, explains that "those who ever tried to maintain that this was a binary choice have been shown to have been posing the question in the wrong way. It is not a question of either physical or digital winning out, but rather of the sector coalescing around a balanced marketplace where all formats have place. While publishing has been efficient and effective in its adaptation, the underlying driver of the evolution is of course the reader. What the 21st-century consumer desires above all is choice. As long as publishers can give readers the option of paper or screen, the market will - and is - taking care of itself. The ebook is no more a challenge to the lifespan of paper than television is to the theatre".
In popular culture
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- Feather, John, A History of British Publishing, 2nd ed (GB:Routledge Ltd, 2005)p.23
- Feather, John, A History of British Publishing, 2nd ed (GB:Routledge Ltd, 2005) p.26
- Feather, John, A History of British Publishing, 2nd ed (GB:Routledge Ltd, 2005) P150
- Feather, John, A History of British Publishing, 2nd ed (GB:Routledge Ltd, 2005)p.150
- Richardson, Paul; Taylor, Graham, A Guide to the UK Publishing Industry, (London: The Publishers Association, 2008) p15
- Richardson, Paul; Taylor, Graham, A Guide to the UK Publishing Industry, (London: The Publishers Association, 2008)p.52
- Flood, Alison, Decline in Independent Bookshops continues with 73 closures in 2012, The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/feb/22/independent-bookshops-73-closures-2012) [accessed 03/12/2014]
- Spector, Mike,Borders forced to liquidate, Close all stores, The Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303661904576454353768550280) [accessed 03/12/2014]
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- John Hinks (2013). "The Book Trade in Early Modern Britain: Centres, Peripheries and Networks". In Benito Rial Costas (ed.). Print Culture and Peripheries in Early Modern Europe: A Contribution to the History of Printing and the Book Trade in Small European and Spanish Cities. Brill. ISBN 9789004235748.
- William Noblett (2014). "Samuel Paterson and the London Auction Market for Second-Hand Books, 1755–1802". Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. 108.