Iceland’s Jólabókaflóð: The Christmas Book Flood

In Global Trade Talk by Edward Nawotka

Jólabókaflóð come the wave of books.

Jólabókaflóð…here come the wave of books. (Photo: Reykjavík Grapevine)

By Edward Nawotka

Reykjavík may have just 230,000 people, but on a night in November there were no less than a half-dozen book launches taking place on the same night. Both the mayor of the city and the President of Iceland showed up for the launch of

Iceland is said to produce the most books per capita anywhere in the world. The average print run here is 2,000 copies for a commercial title, with as much as 60-70% of all books being sold during the Christmas season. Publishers produce a holiday book catalog that goes to every home in the country and giving books for the holidays is a tradition that dates back to the period of austerity following World War II when imports were severely limited. Books were one gift that you could give that wouldn’t break the bank.

Today, the tradition continues with some 800 titles published between November and December, a period which has been dubbed Jólabókaflóð — which translates roughly as “the Book Flood.”

Publishers compete for attention in the limited market and like everywhere, a few titles rise to the top — typically, these are thrillers, though there are occasional breakthrough literary titles. “What can I say,” said one friend, “we’re Icelandic, we were raised on the Sagas, we like stuff to happen in our books…action.”


About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.