Nielsen-GfK’s Pre-LBF ‘Global Book Market’ Report

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The first outing for this Nielsen BookData-GfK study sees revenue up in many book markets, but rising prices contributing to that 2023 trend.

In a first — a joint annual report from GfK Entertainment and Nielsen BookData — 12 of 16 international markets studied report rises in revenue growth for 2023. Image: Nielsen BookData

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Revenue Growth: 8 of 12 Markets in Europe
An assessment of broad book-publishing revenue growth—but, significantly, coupled with price rises—leads the inaugural release today (March 7) of a new joint annual study made by Nielsen BookData and GFK Entertainment.

Quickly the corporate background here: Nielsen BookData is wholly owned by NIQ, or Nielsen IQ. In July, Nielsen IQ announced the completion of its acquisition of GfK, with GfK divesting its European Consumer Panel business in a sale to YouGov. Jim Peck is CEO of the combined business.

The release of the new report is of course deftly timed ahead of next week’s London Book Fair (Thursday through March 14).

The Global Book Market 2023 report is based on physical point-of-sale data for 2023 from Australia, Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Of those 16 markets, 12 recorded revenue growth in 2023, and eight of the 12 are in Europe. Reporting gains were:

  • The United Kingdom (+1.2 percent)
  • Italy (+3.4 percent)
  • Spain (+4.6 percent)
  • Belgium/Flanders (+9.4 percent)
  • The Netherlands (+3.1 percent)
  • Portugal (+7.0 percent)
  • France (+1.5 percent)
  • Republic of Ireland (+0.6 percent)

India saw even larger gains at 7.1 and Mexico topped the revenue gains list with revenue up -11.4 percent.

Four regions, according to Nielsen and GFK, are reporting declines from January to December 2023, and this is something you can see on the international revenues chart we have at the top of this article:

  • Belgium/Wallonia (-1.2 percent)
  • Switzerland (-1.3 percent)
  • Australia (-2.1 percent)
  • New Zealand (-5.4 percent)
The Pricing Issue: Unit Sales Down in Nine Markets

The Nielsen-GfK ‘Global Book Market 2023’ report shows Top Five findings in (a) revenue growth; (b) unit sales; and book prices. Image: Image: Nielsen BookData

The potentially cautionary aspect of the newly released report shows that in nine of the 16 markets evaluated, average book prices are described as “significantly up,” including a substantial +6.6 percent price rise in the seat of the London Book Fair, the United Kingdom’s market. A not dissimilar rise was registered in Brazil, at +7.7 percent.

Out of all the countries included in the analysis,” the study’s authors write, “only Australia registered a slight drop in prices (-0.4 percent). The significant influence of rising average prices in overall market performance and [its compensation] for the sometimes notably decreasing sales volumes is particularly evident in South Africa. Although that country recorded the largest sales losses (-7.7 percent), it also reported the most significant price increases (+9.6 percent), resulting in an overall revenue increase of +1.2 percent.”

This will be of special interest to many in world book publishing because product pricing is a known challenge to the book business, which—in the opinion of some—has never been prone, as a whole, to increase its prices as readily as many other product sectors have done in response to cost-of-living and inflation drivers might prompt.

Leading catetories: Travel Guides, Health, Biographies

In this chart, you see unit sales in the first figure for each market (in millions), followed by growth by percentage. Image: Nielsen BookData

Among the categories seen in this study to be “booming,” the report’s authors say, travel guides and health books saw double-digit growth rates in close to half the markets analyzed.

Harry’s book Spare (Penguin Random House) “was the bestselling nonfiction book overall in Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Belgium/Wallonia,” the report says.

“James Clear’s step-by-step manual Atomic Habits (Penguin Random House) became the most popular nonfiction title in India, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, and Colombia, for which book data were collected for the first time in 2023.”

In another note on titles and trends, we read, “Other global bestsellers in 2023 were romance novels such as Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us (Simon & Schuster/Atria), and finance books like Morgan Housel’s The Psychology of Money (Pan Macmillan/Harriman House).

“The comic segment mostly experienced losses, although some titles, like the new “Asterix,” stood out positively: Asterix and the White Iris (Hachette Livre) was the best-selling book in France and Belgium/Wallonia.” It also reached top positions in Switzerland (second place) and the Netherlands (third place).”

A Programming Note

At London Book Fair, Nielsen will be presenting data in several instances.

 More from Publishing Perspectives on London Book Fair is here, more from us on trade shows and book fairs in world publishing is here, more on the United Kingdom’s book market is here, more on the work of Nielsen is here, and more on industry statistics is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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