That hidden 3 bn dollar book market

Book markets today have a reputation of being slow, flat, little exciting, except for those breath taking crime novels that top so many bestseller lists around the globe.

Yet there is this 3 bn dollar niche market that draw little attent, if not by a few international sales people from wholesalers or large corporations.

I speak of the expanding market of English language books that are exported from the UK and US into the rest of the world.

In 2005, the US exported books for 981 million USD, and the UK books for another 2246 USD (and these numbers already exclude exports from the US into Canada and the UK, and from the UK into the US, Ireland and Australia – otherwise it is a staggering 5 bn market niche). And these export markets show significant growth in some places.

Put together, the 3 bn $ cake grew by 20 percent over a decade, from 2461 m $ in 1995 to 2975 in 2005 (all numbers according to the UK Dept. of Trade and Industry, and the US Trade Stats Express).

Those numbers get even more interesting, once we dig into details.

 Rule Britannia

First of all, we see that the UK is by far the stronger exporter than the US, and this is true for most target markets indeed.

Germany in 2005 imported 95 m Pound Sterling (or almost 200 m $) worth of British books as compared to less than 60 m Yankee books.

China bought books for 27 m $ from the UK as compared to 20 m $ from the US – and China is, for books just as well as for anything else, probably the most important destination in the near future. Imports from the UK grew from 1,3 m GBP (or some 2,5 m $) in 1995 pretty much continually to its level of today, while from the US side, it started in 1995 from more serious 6 m $, at a much  slower pace, to its current purchasing level.

One may think that this is all a bit like Harry Potter, that British wizzard and sorcerer, who conquered the world, starting at what was at least in the beginning, a rather obscure British boarding school. And yes, those HP books opened many doors, for instance when they hit the top of the German bestseller in 2000 – in English!

Well expect the details about Harry and the Global World of Books – and much more in the weeks to come on the booklab blog, as we prepare at BookExpo America for a Global Market Forum on June 1st, 2007, on exactly those questions, with 2 top expert panels and a lot of insight.

More to come to a blog near you…

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