The Bookseller carries an absolutely terrifying story today if you are in travel publishing, on the other hand if you are, the sales are probably pretty clear to you already:
This year travel sales have fallen 10.7% to £22,386,597 (to 17th April) compared to the same period last year. This comes after sales in 2009 were down 26.8% on 2008. Turnover in 2010 is now at its lowest point since records began in 2001.
I’ve commented before that Travel Publishing is in a precarious position when it comes to physical books:
Well I’ve always thought of travel books as the kind of things that will be one of the first real signs of trade books facing change.
Although there are some interesting wrinkles in the market, like Penguin’s performance, an over 30% decline in less than two years (although surely aided by the recession) suggests to me an underlying trend that doesn’t relate specifically to economic change but more to cultural and technological change.
It seems to me that internet research is easily replacing much of what travel books did well. This goes to the heart of the challenged posed by both the internet and Google’s Book Search as I discussed here. Simply put, the internet reduces the demand for new titles especially in areas of non-fiction where information can be found online.
Responding to that challenge is not easy, especially as many of the useful features of books are now already dominated by branded websites offering much more efficient versions of those services, like Tripadvisor. It seems to me that travel publishers need to change their focus away from books with a rapidity that I am sure they themselves understand.
It is a fascinating test case for the rest of the industry!