Speaking to Bloomberg Television's "Asia Edge", Hely Hutchinson said publishers had made a "good and smooth transition" into the digital world, compared with the music business, pointing to the steep growth in its own e-book business.
"In 2009 £1m of digital turnover was £1m, and last year it was £50m, and it wouldn't have been had we not embraced it, and gone after that new business, which has developed so quickly." The figure is a jump from Hachette UK's previously released figure of e-book of £30m, but the larger number will also include export sales, apps and other digital products beyond its e-books.
Hely Hutchinson said the big money was in "plain vanilla" e-books after the public rejected sound, movies and other forms of interactivity. "What readers like to do is curl on the sofa and enjoy that book." But he suggested that cookbooks and children's books could gain a new life in digital as more and more people start using tablets.
Hely Hutchinson also said the change in printing technologies had enabled the business to become more efficient, even at lower print runs. "We used to have to print 10,000s, but I can get an economical print run now with 1,500 copies, so we can keep the stock low, and wait to see which formats the books are selling in."
Hely Hutchinson rejected the idea that self-publishing was undermining its business. "There are 100,000s of self-published authors who are literally selling virtually no copies, if you want to be well edited, well publicised, and in paper as well as electronic, then you need a traditional publisher." But he said the growth in that market had put publishers on our their marks—"we know we have to provide value." He said publishers had had to reinvent themselves, citing their role in fighting digital piracy.