When will every cathedral spire we raise ‘In a Green Night’ alongside Lamming and Lovelace publish from within ‘The Star Apple Kingdom’? In the far-off United Kingdom twenty (20) new books are published every hour. England is an island. Its domestic book-footprint is tiny- compared to India and the US. Publishers must print-for-export or perish. UK publishers attract the best talent worldwide, even from the West Indies for CAPE and CSEC.

According to the International Publishers Association (IPA), UK publishers released 184,000 new and revised titles in 2013 which equated to 2,875 titles per million inhabitants. This placed the United Kingdom an astonishing 1,000-plus titles ahead of second-placed Taiwan and Slovenia (1,831). The next biggest markets are Europe and East and South Asia with a 24% share each. In 2013 the UK publishing industry generated export revenues that exceeded €1.5bn, compared with €1bn for the US and €331m for Spain. In absolute terms, the UK remains a leading publisher in the world with its 184,000 titles coming in behind China’s 444,000 – which equates to 325 per million inhabitants – and the US’s 304,912 in 2013. In 2014, more books were published per inhabitant in the UK than anywhere else in the world.

Publishing is a power house of the Creative Industries in the UK. In 2016, the Harry Potter brand was worth $25 billion. The movies grossed $7.7 billion worldwide. The 2017 financials for the sector celebrates the creativity and innovation of the UK trade-publishing industry. Collective sales in 2017 in the UK rose by 5% to £5.7bn with export sales accounting for 60% of publishers’ revenues. Domestic sales of school textbooks dropped by 12% alongside sales of children’s books which dropped by 3%. Domestic sales of consumer e-books plummeted by 9% according to data from the Publishers Associations’ using publishers’ invoiced sales, licensing sales and figures from national libraries and ISBN agencies. Physical book sales outpaced digital, with revenue up 5% to £3.1bn, while total digital sales income including journals rose 3% to £1.8bn. However, stripping out journals, digital book sales went down by 2% to £543m and consumer e-book sales were down even further by 7% to £191m. E-book sales plunged by 9% to £139m and fiction e-book sales nose-dived by 11%, although non-fiction e-books were up 4%, showing that consumers are increasingly reading illustrated and reference books on smart devices. Audiobook downloads increased and sales of the format leapt 22% to £31m.

The figures reveal that while between 2013 and 2017 publisher revenue from consumer e-books fell by a quarter, audiobook download sales more than doubled. Export sales however continue to drive UK publishers’ revenues. Brexit has not put off Europe from trading with UK publishers. Invoiced sales of print books to the continent went up by 13% to £489m in 2017. Sales to East and South Asia were up by 8% to £248m, though sales to North America were down by 10%. East/South Asia saw its share of exports increase from 15% to 18% between 2013 and 2017. Institutional subscription revenues continue to represent the largest source of income for scholarly journals as university libraries shift to e-collections. Academic publishing by professors remains a strong success story for the UK economy. Global journal export revenues went up by 5% to £1.4bn in 2017 and represents 87% of publisher income. North America is the largest international market for UK journals accounting for 41% of the export market.

During Japan’s Meiji Restoration, Kido Takayoshi felt that development was a matter of education or its absence. In 1872, The Fundamental Code of Education placed the new educational determination of Japan in unequivocal terms: ‘There shall be, in the future, no community with an illiterate family, nor a family with an illiterate person’. By 1913, Japan- which is an archipelago of 6,852 islands was still underdeveloped, but it had become one of the largest producers of books in the world. Today, Masayoshi Son of Japan’s SoftBank oversees the largest technology fund in history. He proclaims that the ‘Internet of Things’ will redefine existing industries and create new ones, including publishing. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan will showcase its progress towards the goal of building ‘Society 5.0’.

Equally, the Creative Industries in Italy and India have embraced the burgeoning new field of Fashion Communication which gives primacy to creative writing alongside design strategies, visual merchandising, graphic design, display, exhibit design, advertising, portfolios and brands.

The illusion of cultural destiny is disingenuous and only fosters a sense of fatalism among people who are unfavourably placed. CARIFESTA 2019 is a perfect platform to explore the trade potential of the publishing industry as part of the creative and cultural industries.