How big is Singapore's book market? What are the trends driving developments? One of the most interesting projects I took on over the last six months was writing a report that analyzes the trade, educational and professional markets to better understand the future of books and publishing in Singapore.
The result is this report for the The Publishers Association (PA), who produce a series of such reports on different countries around the world. The PA is the leading trade organisation serving book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK.
Working on the project was fascinating, and I need to thank the many book industry people who spoke to me at some length about their own businesses and their view of the industry and Singapore's market. Among the more interesting exercises was an attempt to size the education and trade book markets. (We found it very hard to really size the professional market, as it has shifted so much in recent years, but I was able to provide some sanity check and data points to compare against the Price Waterhouse media market numbers.) I didn't uncover any secrets, but we did establish a few key points:
- overseas online booksellers--Amazon, Book Depository--take around 20% of the local trade book market, a bigger chunk than most people had estimated
- the floor area available for selling books in Singapore has shrunk by around 30% in the last 18 months; sales have not collapsed accordingly, but everyone is nervous
- the lack of investment is the main factor holding back the ebooks market in Singapore - once investment meets pent-up demand, we could see a rapid shift to e-books
- Singapore education publishing is doing well, and growing its export markets in some key areas, where the Singapore brand name for education can be leveraged. This is despite the decline in the size of the cohorts of students entering the system. There remain some acquisition targets in the market.
Of course things are changing quickly, and ebook sales, for example, are now just starting to move in Singapore, literally over the last couple of months. Also the purchase of Times Publishing/Marshall Cavendish by Khun Charoen of Thailand could lead to some interesting changes in Singapore's biggest player. While PS Media is now dormant, now that I've taken on new challenges, I hope to continue to post information of relevance to the Singapore book industry on this blog from time to time.