The exciting first half of 2021 for book publishing

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By all accounts, the first half of 2021 has been a good time for professional book publishing. The revenues of companies that report commercial sales to the Association of American Publishers StatShot program increased by 17.6% in the first six months of 2020; NPD BookScan reported that unit sales increased 18.5% during the period; and bookstore sales jumped 30% from what was a miserable first half of 2020. So it’s no surprise that the top four publicly traded publishers also saw strong increases over the period. .

It should be noted in particular that while sales were strong, profits were even better, with operating margins showing strong gains. In general, publishers cited higher sales of backlist books and digital content, especially digital audio books, for improving margins. While supply chain issues and uncertainty over the delta variant raise some concerns about how the rest of the year will unfold, publishers are hopeful that the increased interest in reading will continue through the 2021 holiday season and beyond.

It’s also worth noting that, for the first time, HarperCollins’ results include sales of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt business group, after HC finalized the acquisition of the company in early May. The HMH group contributed $ 23 million in revenue to HC during the first half of the year. June 30 also marks the end of HC’s fiscal year, which has been a great year for the publisher, with total sales approaching $ 2 billion. Sales for the first half of the 2021 calendar were up 20% compared to the same period in 2020, a growth rate slightly faster than the 19% increase recorded by the company for the year.

HC CEO Brian Murray attributed the healthy gains in FY2021 to increased consumer spending on books around the world, saying he has never seen such a sustained increase in book purchases in the world. during its more than 25 years of publishing. “The tailwinds of Covid are real,” he added. Sales increased in all formats, and Murray was particularly encouraged by strong growth in print sales in the United States, which he said is another sign that general book reading is on the rise.

At Penguin Random House, profits soared 55.1% in the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2020, parent company Bertelsmann reported, while sales were up 10.9%. Total revenue for the period was € 1.80 billion, or approximately $ 2.1 billion, compared to € 1.63 billion, while operating EBITDA (profit before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) jumped to € 324 million, from € 209 million a year ago. Sales in the United States increased 8.7% to 1.08 billion euros.

Bertelsmann attributed the overall increases to strong sales of top and bottom list books, as well as “a continued audio boom in almost every territory.” In addition to the rise in audiobook sales, PRH “continued to benefit from the accelerated shift to online retail channels,” Bertelsmann noted.

As the regulatory review of the imminent acquisition of Simon & Schuster by PRH continues in the United States, growth in the first half of the year was aided by acquisitions made by the company’s Spanish-speaking subsidiary, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial. Revenues from PRH’s services business, mainly in its distribution business, were up 18.2% to € 52 million.

In a letter to employees, PRH Global CEO Markus Dohle highlighted “a strong book market in some of our large territories” and “the resumption of last year’s revenue losses due to the COVID crisis – 19 in other regions “as contributors to the good performance in the first half. He thanked PRH employees for working together during the pandemic, writing: “The remaining months of 2021 bring new areas to explore: the development of hybrid work models and the ability to meet customer demand for books. voracious. “

Acknowledging that the second quarter of last year was weak, Lagardère said that its publishing group’s sales rose 16.4% in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, to 1.13 billion euros, and EBIT climbed to 110 million euros from 27 million euros. . Hachette Book Group’s turnover increased by 14.8%. CEO Michael Pietsch said hardcover book sales were strong during the period and noted good overall performance in children’s books and the company’s Christian book business. HBG’s distribution business was “solidly ahead of 2020,” he added.

HBG is only part of the overall good performance of Lagardère Publishing. Sales increased 26.9% in France and 17.3% in UK, while sales in Spain / Latin America fell 4.5% due to lower sales in Mexico which compensated for the “good momentum” in Spain, said the editor.

The share of digital sales in Lagardère’s total revenue declined over the period, which the publisher attributed to difficult comparisons with the first half of last year, when consumers turned to formats. digital due to the pandemic. EBook sales have grown from around 97 million euros in the first six months of 2020 to 90 million euros in the first six months of 2021, but digital audio sales have increased from 48 million euros. euros to around 52 million euros.

S&S sales grew 9.2% in the first six months of the year compared to the first half of 2020, helped by a strong performance from its international group. CEO Jonathan Karp said units overseas had increased production after cutting production last year due to the pandemic.

In the United States, sales were led by the adult group and audio. Karp noted that backlist sales were strong and sales in physical stores, including Barnes & Noble, rebounded.

A version of this article appeared in the 9/13/2021 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: Tough to Top


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