European book sales weakened in 2020

Year-end book sales across Europe were slammed by December closures after Covid-19 cases rose across the continent. Nonetheless, preliminary results from three main markets show that the declines for the year as a whole have been modest.

In Germany, Europe’s largest book market, sales rose 25% in the first two weeks of December compared to 2019, but fell when a new lockdown was imposed on December 16. Overall sales for the year were down 2.3% from 2019, according to BUCH, a monthly report by Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, a German book publishing trade group. Bookstores saw their sales drop 8.7% for the year, but gains at booksellers and online platforms offset this decline.

“It is true that books played an important role for people during the crisis,” BDB director Karin Schmidt-Friderichs said in a statement. “There was a great enthusiasm for reading and the demand for books was high for much of the year. But the shutdown in December thwarted industry plans. New store closings in the midst of Christmas business halted the race to make up for lost sales due to the spring shutdown. “

The best-selling novel in Germany in 2020 was the thriller by Sebastian Fitzek The way back, followed by Where the crayfish sing by Delia Owens. that of Barack Obama A promised land at the top of the list of documentaries. Among categories, only children’s books saw growth, with sales up 4.7%; travel books recorded the largest decline, dropping 26.1%. Schmidt-Friderichs said ongoing lockdowns make the sales outlook for the first months of 2021 “uncertain.”

This sentiment was shared by Vincent Montagne, president of the National Publishing Union, a French professional book publishing group. During a discussion on what awaits the industry as part of a speech organized by the professional magazine of the French edition Weekly Books, Montagne said: “Who knows? In his speech, he revealed that French-language book sales were probably only down 2% for the year and that some categories had increased, including comics, which saw their sales increase by 6%. and children’s educational books, where sales increased 4%. In contrast, sales of travel diaries fell by 40%.

Montagne underlined the solidarity shown by the French publishing industry in the face of the pandemic. He praised the community for supporting bookstores in their efforts to stay open amid closures and stressed the need to innovate to face current challenges.

Italy saw strong holiday sales. “The Christmas sales went well, and this gives hope that 2020 will end on the same levels as 2019, confirming the recovery of the book market after the containment in March and April,” said Ricardo Franco Levi, president of the Associazione Italiana. Editor, an Italian book publishing business group, in an advertisement. Levi praised the Italian government for supporting the book sales and publishing industry during the pandemic, particularly with support in the form of grants and the continuation of the government-sponsored 18app initiative, which gives every Italian citizen € 500 to spend on “cultural experiences”, including books – when they turn 18.

Levi acknowledged that the situation remains complex. “With the boom in online sales and strong performance of neighborhood bookstores comes struggles for downtown bookstores and shopping malls, and for chain stores,” he said. “Some industries, like art publishing and travel books, have suffered huge losses. All publishers face very difficult challenges.

A version of this article appeared in the 01/18/2021 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: European book sales weaken