By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘A Strong and Lasting Medium’In news messaging from Copenhagen, Saga Egmont reports that its parent company Lindhardt & Ringhof produced a record-setting 33 million kroner (US$5.4 million) in revenue in 2020.
This is described by the company as “a huge feat considering the focus on digital investments and the addition of 40 new employees.”
Publishing Perspectives readers will recall that Saga Egmont announced in October that it was hiring 40 staffers to facilitate the release of more digital books in a number of markets in the coming years.
The publishing house delivered revenue of 473 million kroner in 2020, and profit before tax of that 33 million kroner. Of the 77 million kroner revenue growth (US$12.6 million), only 22 million kroner (US$3.6 million), the company reports, came from acquisitions.
One reason that the news is coming to us from the Saga Egmont subsidiary is that digital growth, of course, was powered by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Saga Egmont is Lindhardt & Ringhof’s lead digital division, and Lindhardt & Ringhof is the second largest publishing house in Denmark after Gyldendal Forlag.
“This is some of the most fun I’ve had in my publishing career,” Lars Boesgaard, Lindhardt & Ringhof CEO, says in a statement on the news of the company’s big profit.
“We publish thousands of ebooks and audiobooks in Spain, Mexico, Germany, UK, France, Italy, and many other countries.
“By embracing the digital publishing opportunities of today, any publisher can reach millions and millions of readers far across country borders. And this we have done in 2020, adding positively to our total turnover and profit.”
Amid the digital acceleration driven by the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Saga Egmont reports that it now publishes half the audiobooks and one third of the ebooks produced in Denmark, with its population of 5.8 million. The company seems confident that digital advances made during pandemic conditions will hold in the future.
”Although COVID-19 affected the year negatively in a lot of ways,” Boesgaard says in his commentary, “book sales have continued to grow. The book has truly manifested itself as a strong and lasting medium.
“It’s also incredibly positive that sales of physical books have grown by 10 percent compared to 2019 in Denmark. It’s becoming more and more clear that readers want both digital books as well as the ‘old-fashioned’ print book, which maybe isn’t that old-fashioned, after all.”
We’ve heard several times, of course, from the digital division Saga Egmont’s director, Lasse Korsemann Horne. Now he says, “Our goal is to catch up. In many if not most countries, publishers haven’t digitized their books. There are only a limited number of titles available, which is not good for readers, authors, or publishers.
“Our promise to authors and translators is that all their books will be available in digital formats, generating new revenue.
“Anything else would be odd, given we’re in 2021.”
Saga Egmont’s digital catalogue numbers some 80,000 ebooks and audiobooks, according to media messaging from Copenhagen, and the intent is to expand the offering by 25,000 titles this year.
Eyeing the UK Market
Not unlike Sweden’s Bonnier, a Nordic neighbor already well set in the United Kingdom’s market, Lindhardt & Ringhof’s management this year is talking of embarking on a British foray, publishing audiobooks in cooperation with Hera Books and Canelo. Nikoline Nordfred Eriksen, program manager at Saga Egmont, says the digital subsidiary looks forward to giving “a fresh perspective to the digital book in the English-language markets worldwide.”
Translation is an element of the Danish plan, Horne saying, “For many years, there’s been this notion that British readers don’t fancy translated literature. We believe a great story is a great story. We’ve seen across many markets now that digital readers are curious by nature.”
Saga Egmont, then, is talking up “a translation program of our Nordic writers,” he says. This year, that effort is to feature true crime writer Kristian Corfixen with The Nurse, as well as Sarah Engell’s The Chinese Twin and Karl Eidem’s The Children’s Hospital.
Boesgaard says, “We have ambitious plans and expect to continue our impressive growth in 2021, hiring 30 to 40 new colleagues to help expand our business.”
He points as examples, to coming releases of work by Jeffrey Archer including The Fourth Estate, The Eleventh Commandment, and Sons of Fortune in audio recordings by narrators Jonathan Aris and Michael Brandon.
Lindhardt & Ringhof’s holdings include not only Saga Egmont but also Carlsen, Alinea, Akademisk Forlag, and Alfabeta. Lindhardt & Ringhof itself is owned by the media foundation Egmont, which also holds Nordisk Film, Story House Egmont, and Norway’s TV 2.
The Coronavirus in Denmark
At this writing, the 6:24 a.m. ET (1124 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 208,715 cases in Denmark’s population of 5.8 million, with 2,344 fatalities.
Naomi O’Leary, the Europe correspondent for the Irish Times, reports that the Danish Health Authority believes it can offer all Danes a vaccination by June 27. The country is using the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines and expects to inoculate 100,000 people daily.
The nation has undergone a long winter lockdown, however, and while lowering daily cases from 3,000 in December to “just a few hundred,” Kai Kupferschmidt reported for Science Magazine early this month that Danish scientists were alarmed by the rising presence of the B.1.1.7 UK variant. Aggressive genomic sequencing has indicated that the variant may be spreading as much as 1.55 times faster than the previously seen strains.
On Friday (February 19), Denmark partially closed its border with Germany in reaction to an outbreak in Flensburg, according to a report from Deutsche-Welle.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.