Interview by Hannah Johnson
Leading up to Finland’s Guest of Honor appearance at the Frankfurt Book Fair, we spoke with Tuomas Kilpi, Managing Director of Finn Lectura, one of Finland’s leading publishers of language study materials, including textbooks, general literature and online courses.
What do you enjoy most about working in book publishing?
The opportunities to learn new things, create new strategies, launch new products and find new partners.
Top 3 things to know about Finn Lectura.
- We are growing, profitable and forward-looking: over the last five years our annual turnover has more than doubled (from 0.8 million euros to over 1.6 million euros)
- Our market share has increased significantly.
- We have several exiting projects—digital, print and hybrid—in the pipeline.
Do you have new titles or series that you are excited to promote this year?
Though we are mainly an education publisher, we do have some fiction on our list as well. The Hollow Pilgrim by Ville Vuorela is set in the world created by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their science fiction classic, Roadside Picnic. The novel has been authorized by Boris Strugatsky, so this is a legitimate return to the world of Zones and stalkers who venture into them.
As an education publisher, what are some of your biggest challenges right now?
The transition from print to digital learning enviroments and the emerging new standards in e-learning keep us busy. The Finnish government believes that there are great savings in e-learning materials, but everybody who is not an utter moron knows this is folly. Creating, editing, marketing and distributing great content and useful products will always come at a price, but it is a sensible and necessary investment.
What are your biggest opportunities?
Since all challenges are opportunities — and vice versa — we are excited by e-learning and what we can do with e-publishing. Most of our profits will come from print and hybrid for quite a few years, but pure digital plays cannot be overlooked. We are also exploring streaming technology and subscription-based revenue models.
What trends do you notice in Finnish publishing right now?
It looks like many publishers are investing in books that have a pretty short shelf-life. For Finn Lectura, our mission is a bit different as we aim to publish books that will be sold 10, 20 or 30 years from now. The future of retail is also quite murky. We have seen significant consolidation over the recent years, and the number of stores keeps dropping. And everybody is wondering if and when Amazon will make a push for Nordic markets.
What do you want international publishers to know about the Finnish book market?
There are only 5.5 million people here, but the market is strong and vibrant. Books have a special place in the Finnish ethos as our identity as a nation is built upon certain seminal works. Finns value language, books, reading and education to a degree that is not true everywhere else. And even though Bonnier and Otava are by far the biggest players here, there are plenty of small and mid-sized publishers with unique lists and interesting authors.
How much of your time is spent working on digital or tech-related projects?
At least 60%, perhaps more, especially if one includes time spent on developing our digital strategy. Then again, there are hardly any projects that are not at least partly digital or tech-related.
Why did Finn Lectura decide to join IDPF? Has this been helpful for your business?
As the standard-setting authority IDPF is the forum where formats like EPUB and EDUPUB are crafted. Being part of this process is vital to us. We have been able to hone our expertize in e-publishing and we have a much clearer vision of where the whole industry is going—and where we want to be in a few years’ time.
Find Finn Lectura at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair in Hall 5.0 A79.