Polish Publishers Launch an Online Bookstore, Inverso

In Feature Articles by Jaroslaw Adamowski

Citing heavy competition in online retail, two major book publishers in Poland have created an online bookstore of their own called Inverso.

Poland’s favorite Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Olga Tokarczuk commands a place of pride on the current home page of the new Inverso site. Image: Inverso.pl

By Jaroslaw Adamowksi | @JaroslawAdamows

‘Unprecedented Combat for Readers Online’
Two major Polish publishers, Prószyński i S-ka and Czarna Owca, have joined forces to launch a new online bookstore. The store offers print books, ebooks, and audiobooks by the two publishing houses. Prószyński i S-ka and Czarna Owca expect to compete against other online booksellers and attract readers with features that some will see as innovative in the country’s publishing market.

The new retail site, Inverso.pl, will offer live chats with authors available only to the online customers as well as print-on-demand services and an exclusive selection of large-print books.

Kamil Nowelli, a spokesperson for Czarna Owca, tells Publishing Perspectives that the joint initiative is the result of efforts by the two publishers to adapt to market challenges.

“Such joint initiatives are very important,” Nowelli says, “because of the current shape of the book market.

“We believe that in a time of unprecedented combat for readers online, synergy is what counts.

Nowelli says the launch comes as the publisher is witnessing “a very significant increase” in the ebook segment as well as in audiobook sales.

“Our Big Font service is definitely a unique offer. It’s a project that allows us to maximize the customization process to the needs of our customers. Owing to this service, each of our readers can buy a book the format, leading and font of which are enlarged.”

Both publishing houses publish a wide range of genres including literary fiction, nonfiction, crime, thrillers, romance, biographies, popular science books, and young adult novels.

Prószyński publishes popular Polish writers, including Katarzyna Puzyńska, Maria Nurowska, and Manula Kalicka, as well as foreign authors including Stephen King, John Irving, Jodi Picoult, Jeffery Deaver, and John Steinbeck.

Czarna Owca publishes books by David Lagercrantz, the author who is continuing to expand the Stieg Larsson’s Millennium brand as a series that’s also released in the local market, In addition, the house publishes Polish espionage thriller author Vincent V. Severski, Swedish crime novelist Liza Marklund, and many other crime, thriller, self-help, nonfiction, and literary fiction authors.

Publishers Seek More Independence From Retailers

The Inverso development indicates that Polish publishers are increasingly looking for ways to gain independence from major retailers and secure new sales channels to increase their independence.

Empik, Poland’s largest bookselling chain, comprises some 260 stores in various formats across the country, with plans to bring the total to 300 outlets by 2020.

In addition to this, the company’s online store, Empik.com, is the third most popular online retailer in the Polish market, according to data from online research agency Gemius. Empik’s dominant position in the country’s book market has allowed the chain to become a force that Polish publishers say they need to reckon with, at times by securing exclusive book releases that make the titles unavailable at other bookstores.

However, Empik’s rise has also pushed some publishing houses to cooperate and launch joint projects like this one designed to weaken the retailer’s grip over the book market.

In 2016, a joint venture of six Polish publishers, local businesspeople Kristof Zorde and Elżbieta Pustota, and book distribution company Super Siódemka launched a new bookstore chain, BookBook. The business was co-established by Prószyński i S-ka, HelionPublicatRebisZysk and Czarna Owca in an attempt to compete against major bookstore chains.

BookBook currently fields close to 90 bookstores, with the largest number of outlets located in Poland’s northern and eastern regions.

The state-run Book Institute operates an online bookstore database which comprises some 1,084 Polish outlets.

Of those, 57 percent are not affiliated with any chains. The remaining bookstores are divided between major chains of more than 100 outlets, at 20 percent; mid-size chains of between 30 and 99 stores, at 9 percent; and small chains of between three and 29 outlets, at 14 percent, respectively, according to figures from the database.

More from Publishing Perpectives on the Polish market is here.

About the Author

Jaroslaw Adamowski

Jaroslaw Adamowski is a freelance writer based in Warsaw, Poland. He has written for the Guardian, the Independent, the Jerusalem Post, and the Prague Post.