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Go Read This | FT.com – The end of the guidebook?

I’ve mused about the effect of the internet on Travel Publishing a few times here. The FT has a nice piece on it that really hits home the figures:

And the latest news from the front line is not good. In fact, over the past two and a half years, guidebook sales in Britain have fallen off a cliff. Sales for 2009 were down 18 per cent on 2007, and if the second half of this year follows the first, 2010 will be down 27 per cent on 2007, according to data from Nielsen BookScan. If the current rate of decline continues, the final guidebook will be sold in less than seven years’ time.

Lonely Planet’s Australia guide sold 20,015 copies in 2008, and just 13,530 in 2009 – a drop of a third (again, the figures are from Nielsen BookScan, covering sales from British retailers). The Rough Guide to France, which sold 11,943 in 2008, fell 45 per cent to 6,561 the following year. Worse is that these are considered bestsellers.

Of course, the fortunes of individual titles fluctuate with the launch of new editions and the fashionability of destinations, but average sales across the whole range paint an equally bleak picture. Last year, the average UK sale of each title from the leading five publishers was around 1,500 copies.

via FT.com / Reportage – The end of the guidebook?.

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Travel Book Sales: This Has To Be The Internet

Travelling Back In TimeThe 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!
Eoin

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