Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle addressed the opening press conference of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, highlighting the stability of the global book publishing business and underscored positive signs for the future, despite increasingly divisive political and challenging financial situations facing nations around the world.
“Book markets have seen growth in most countries, slow, but continuous growth,” Dohle said, noting that some emerging markets have seen “double-digit” growth. One contributing factor to financial stability is the re-invigoration of the print market and the now “healthy co-existence” of the print and digital markets. Overall the markets have stabilized, with print accounting for 80% of sales and digital 20%. “Who would have predicted this five years ago?” Dohle asked. “Most people would have thought it would have been the opposite.”
Looking forward, he pointed to the increase in global literacy and a boom in children’s and young adult book sales over the past decade as developments likely to lead to future growth for publishers, and for Penguin Random House specifically. “India has young a population of 1.3 billion people with 10% of them speaking English,” Dohle said. “That is twice the population of the U.K., making India the second largest English book market in the world. India, along with Brazil — which also has a large, young population — are our most important emerging markets.”
Dohle acknowledged that several challenges remained for books and publishing, not the least of which was discovery. “There are 50 million books available from Amazon,” he said, acknowledging the growing importance of self-publishing as an avenue for authors. “Yet, while we are growing in titles, we are still thirsty of the next great story.” Publishers, he went on to say, have a key role to play as curators of content. “Publishers stand for quality and perfect each product before it makes it to the market,” he said.
The viability of the book business resides not only on growth markets, but on an increasing appetite for story, be it in the form of a book or an adaptation, as well as in its role as an arbiter of free speech. “Penguin Random House invests $750 million a year in new stories,” he said. “We have a position to play in the future discourse about politics and society.”