Are we returning to the printed book? Bungay-based Clays highlights fall in e-reader sales

PUBLISHED: 18:27 31 May 2016 | UPDATED: 18:29 31 May 2016

Clays book printers in Bungay. Picture: Submitted

Clays book printers in Bungay. Picture: Submitted


Readers turning away from digital books and the continuing rise of the self-publisher have stabilised sales at the region’s biggest book printer.

Clays book printers in Bungay. Picture: Submitted Clays book printers in Bungay. Picture: Submitted

EDP Top100 firm Clays, which employs 700 people at its 19-acre base in Bungay, said falling sales of e-books meant it was “ready to write the next chapter” in its story.

And a resurgence in self-publishers returning from digital to print has driven “rapid volume growth” in small batch publishing, said the company.

The sign of the enduring strength of printed books comes after Waterstones dropped the e-reader Kindle from its shelves in the autumn, and UK publishers saw a year-on-year rise of 0.4% in physical book sales, according to the Publishers Association.

Harry Potter book printer Clays has further thrown its weight behind books by investing in its factory, including the installation of full-colour book printing equipment.

“Offering a broader range of services, for example printing 500,000 books in a few weeks, right down to a single copy for one consumer overnight, involved adapting the culture and behaviour of the people who are using the new technology,” said 
chief executive Paul Hulley, in the group’s latest accounts on Companies House.

Getting small batches of books into shops or single copies to consumers at high speed “minimises the need to hold large amounts of stock in a warehouse”, he added.

Turnover at the firm remained broadly flat at £67m for the year ending July 31, 2015, compared with £67.4m the year before, and pre-tax profits were static at £6.1m.

But the stabilised sales figure follows a series of falls in recent years, down from £71.3m in 2013, and £75.1m in 2012.

The report said: “Sentiment within the physical book market has improved, with e-reader penetration appearing to have levelled off within the UK and the US and with physical book volumes stable for the first time in a number of years.”

It comes after Norwich-based EDP Top100 firm Bertrams Books saw operating profits lift from £2.5m in 2014 to £2.6m in 2015, as managing director Justin Adams said people were “going back to books”.

Part of the Connect Group, Bertrams is in a book division which reported revenues of £190.1m for the year ending August 2015, down from £193.7m the year before. But like-for-like sales were up 3.1pc.

And independent book shops have also pointed towards a sales uplift, with Norwich’s City Bookshop, in Davey Place, highlighting a 20pc increase in pre-Christmas turnover compared to 2014.

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