Rogue book publishers slammed shut by the courts

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Book World Limited and Hardback Printer Limited were wound up in the public interest in the Business & Property Court in Manchester on 23 September 2019. The Official Receiver has now been appointed as the Liquidator.

In considering the petition, the court heard Book World’s trade was concerned with taking orders from self-publishers before out-sourcing the jobs to suppliers predominantly based in Eastern Europe.

Customers were attracted by competitive quotes with the promise that the books could be printed and delivered on a very tight timescale.

Once a quote was finalised, the customer would upload their manuscript via a web portal before making an up-front payment to a variety of bank accounts.

Following complaints about the level of service, however, the Insolvency Service conducted confidential enquiries into Book World’s activities.

Investigators were able to establish that the accounts that received the clients’ money were not always held in the name of the company and sometimes held by the former director – Neill Stuart Malcolm John.

In many cases, the books were printed neither to the specified quantity or quality. Customers also reported that the books were delivered late or not at all and if customers made complaints, Book World would become aggressive.

Refunds were promised but never given before Book World would cut ties with the customer. When customers complained to Book World, they were referred to the companies Terms & Conditions which were heavily in favour of the company.

And while investigators interviewed Neill John in relation to two other printers that were wound up previously in court in October 2018, he admitted that Hardback Printer Limited was incorporated as a new corporate vehicle to continue his schemes.

Investigators found no evidence that Hardback Printer had traded but the Insolvency Service petitioned to the court to wind the company up on the basis that it was closely connected to two other rogue printing companies shut down in October 2018.

The two publishers’ registered addresses were based in London but they were in reality virtual office providers and the companies operated from Barry.

The court agreed to wind-up Book World Limited and Hardback Printer Limited on the grounds that they operated with a lack of transparency and commercial probity, while also failing to maintain and/or deliver accounting records or co-operate with the investigation.

Helen Cosgrove, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said:

Many of the companies’ victims were everyday consumers looking for a good price to get their work published as they didn’t have the support of a big publishing house behind them.

However, investigations clearly proved Book World had no interest in serving their clients and provided shoddy levels of output, while Hardback Printer was all set-up to do exactly the same.

We are pleased the courts recognised this and have shut down their activities to prevent further people from becoming victims.

All public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made to: The Official Receiver, 3 Piccadilly Place, London Road, Manchester M1 3BN; email:

Notes to editors

Bookworld Limited (company registration number 11070577) was incorporated on 17 November 2017. The company’s registered office is at: 3 Shortlands, London W6 8DA.

Hardback Printer Limited (company registration number 11338184) was incorporated on 1 May 2018. The company’s registered office is at: Holborn Viaduct, London EC1N 2PB.

The petitions were presented under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 on 31 May 2019 at the High Court of Justice in London and were subsequently transferred to the Court in Manchester on 8 July 2019.

Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Information about how to complain about a live company.

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