South Korean Book Sales Plummeted by 20% in 2012

In News by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

The Korea Times reports that “Korean’s don’t read books and don’t read newspapers.  They flock to the movies, however.”

Statistics Korea issued a report last week showing that book consumption (sales of hardcovers, paperbacks, and magazines), sunk to record lows last year with the average spending per household dropping below 20,000 won (about $18.44).

Sales of new books decreased by 20 percent in 2012. Online purchases of books dropped for the first time since the agency began tracking e-commerce activity in 2001.

“The situation for the publishing market is now at its worst,” said Han Ki-ho, head of the Korean Publishing Market Research Institute.

The 19,206 won that households spent on books per month in 2012 was a 7.5% drop from the previous year, and a startling 28 percent drop from the 26, 346 won measured in 2003.

According to data from the Korean Publishers Association (KPA), 39,767 new titles were published in 2012 with a total print run of 86.97 copies, making it the first time since 2000 that less than 100 million copies of new books were published over a year’s time.

And Han Ki-ho says it just gets worse. “The number of bookstores was counted at 5,683 in 1994, but reduced to 2,247 in 2003 and 1,752 in 2001, representing a 22% decline during that period. While the decline in offline stores had been accompanied by an increase in the books bought through Internet retailers, the revenue of online bookstores declined for the first time last year as well. The lack of discussions toward introducing a fixed-price book system is also eating into the finances of publishers.”

Indeed, while revenue at online bookstores grew at an annual rate of between 50 and 60 percent throughout the early 2000s, the pace of growth slowed to 18.6% in 2007 and 9% in 2111 before posting an actual contraction last year.

The Korean film industry, on the other hand, had a record year in 2012, selling nearly 200 million tickets, and that growth has increased further this year: the number of moviegoers reached 23.6 million in January, up more than 22% over the previous year.

The Korea Times’ Kim Tong-hyung points out that the popularity of movies has probably been driven by the bad economy. “Consumers, reeling from stagnant incomes and higher costs are looking for ways to spend their leisure time, and it’s difficult to beat spending 10,000 won for popcorn, soda and two hours of entertainment.”

Thanks to The Complete Review for pointing us to this story.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.