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Report Confirms Nightmare Year for Spanish Publishers, Bankruptcies Loom

By Julieta Lionetti

Last Tuesday, the overdue annual report (PDF) of the Spanish Publishers Guild (FGEE) was released, confirming a trend already pointed out by the INE (National Institue of Statistics): the Spanish book industry is in serious trouble.

Since the subprime crisis started in 2008, the industry has shrunk 18% and, according to the FGEE’s predictions, it can expect to drop another 10% by December 2012. The negative growth affects trade books in particular, both fiction and non-fiction, while text books and children books have a more steady performance. In total, the number of copies sold fell by 20.3% in 2011.

While exports (+5.38%) and digital (+3%) had a positive outcome, together they can’t compensate for the losses. Since 2009, digital titles published saw a 577% growth, while their turnover only increased 41 points, representing barely 2.8% of the total industry  turnover. The annus horribilis also brought a 70% drop in sales in the profitable segment of SMT and legal e-books.

Industry sources fear that many publishers — small, medium and large — will face bankruptcy during the third and forth quarters. In this grim scenario, many see Latin America as the perennial El Dorado. Spanish subsidiaries on the continent have a dominant position in the textbook segment, where they control 60% of the market. A more aggressive export policy might inflame already existing tensions in Latin America.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted July 9, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I’m afraid the contents of this report come as no surprise to me. The main problems with Spanish (and I suspect with the French and Italian) publishers and the continental European book market in general are more deep rooted and start with the fact that price fixing, as used to be the case in the UK with the Net Book Agreement, makes books expensive and inaccessible to the majority of the public, creates a nice cosy monopoly between publishers and retailers and limits sales, regardless of the format. It really does go back to the elite restricting the masses from having access to books which may enhance their knowledge.

    From my knowledge of Spanish publishing, it comprises a few large players who have been desperately trying to protect their position and who were dragged kicking and screaming into the digital world (they did not see eBooks as an opportunity but as a threat, Libranda, by general consensus has been a disaster) and a myriad of small publishers, i.e. less than 5 titles per annum and often a 1 or2 man band most of whom frankly have never even heard of Nielsens and are often supported by subsidies.

    There are, of course a few exceptions, such as Blanca Rosa Roca of Barcelona eBooks, Lid Publishing and Juan Gonzalez of Grammata (not strictly a publisher) but they are few and far between.

    In fact, book publishers in most of continental Europe are so far behind the curve its incredible that they survive, their distribution channels/supply chain systems are generally non-existent versus UK and USA while their operating and commercial practices are all about protecting their position and not about expanding the market or competing.

    Of course, this “protective position” is natural for products for which there is limited demand/restricted market size – English language books command by far the biggest market share around the world, but, given the size of the Spanish language market, Spanish publishers do (or perhaps did?) have an opportunity to develop a dynamic publishing and retailing model Unfortunately, so far they haven’t taken it and I hope, sincerely that it is too late for them as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et al hover in the background with their skills and experience in book retailing and the impact they can have on publishing. The ultimate winner will be the consumer and also society as a whole as more people read books which are easily accessible and sensibly priced – which is still not the case in Spain, France or Italy even today.

  2. Posted July 18, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    There is no transparency / honesty with regard to authors. Publishers are reluctant to reveal number of printed copies. And they pay what they like to pay, generally less than what is due to the author.

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