Editor’s note: As we’ve reported, Polish retailers and readers have been expecting the VAT on ebooks to be dropped from 23 to 5 percent, as EU regulations now allow. a bill for this reduction has been approved by the lower house of parliament, the Sejm, with a Senate vote still to come, and the signature of the president to bring it into Polish law. It’s likely, then, that LitRes’ move into the Polish market this summer is being made with anticipation of that easing of VAT rates on digital products.–Porter Anderson
By Jaroslaw Adamowksi | @JaroslawAdamows
Ebooks and Audiobooks in More Than 30 LanguagesThe Russian ebook distributor and retailer LitRes has opened operations through a new online presence in Poland. LitRes is reported to hold a 66-percent share of its home country’s licensed ebook market and the arrival in Poland is seen by the company’s leadership as a step on the way to a more prominent spot among international markets.
Ksenia Garashchenko, LitRes’ public relations manager, tells Publishing Perspectives that in addition to developing a dominant position in Russia, LitRes wants to have a major presence in markets with sizable shares of Russian-language readers, the three Baltic States being logical jumping-off points: in 2017, the company launched sales in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
“The next step was related to acquisitions of English-language ebooks,” Garashchenko says, “and signing agreements with the top international publishers. Currently, our catalogue offers ebooks and audiobooks in more than 30 languages.
“LitRes started sales in Poland in May with 20,000 ebooks in the Polish language. These include bestsellers by both world-famous authors such as Stephen King and Lee Child, along with popular Polish authors including Remigiusz Mróz and Katarzyna Bonda.”
Asked whether the service has observed any significant distinctions in the Russian and Polish ebook markets as yet, Garashchenko says she can see parallels in some of the two markets’ genre interests.
“According to analytical data,” she says, “the most popular genres in the first half of 2018 were fantasy, combat fiction, nonfiction—especially books about personal growth—and general fiction.
“Based on what we see in the same periods of 2019, nonfiction has become the most popular genre. Fantasy, combat fantasy, and romance also are leading our sales charts.
“Since March 2019, nonfiction has been the most popular genre in the Polish market. Children’s and educational literature are also quite popular.”
A Two-Part Expansion Plan
Garashchenko says the company’s approach—in addition to focusing on countries with large Russian-language readerships—has to do with looking for countries without strong ebook and audiobook services. “For example,” she says, “if there are few Polish ebooks on Amazon, we can provide the best reading experience to those users.”
Using these patterns of opportunity, she says, the company has grown operations in Germany and Israel. All told, the service offers more than 1 million ebooks in various languages.
LitRes comprises businesses including LitRes services, the MyBook subscription service, and the Livelib social network for readers. In addition to this, LitRes is developing a platform for publishing books by self-publishing authors. The company produces and distributes ebooks and audiobooks in more than 30 countries., says Garashchenko.
She says the self-publishing project is rapidly developing, having signed around 20,000 independent writers, something that contributed to a big increase in the company’s titles available to sell.
“In general,” Garashchenko says, “LitRes saw that in 2018, audiobooks, in-app purchases, and self-published literature were rather popular.
“In audiobooks last year, LitRes sold more than 2 million units, which is twice as many as in 2017. The share of audiobooks amounted to 25 percent of our retail sales.”
Established in 2005, LitRes’ corporate messaging says it was founded by a group of people interested in developing a legal ebook market in Russia. Its shareholders include Eksmo, Russia’s largest publishing house, and Ozon, a leading e-commerce platform.