By Jarosław Adamowksi | @JaroslawAdamows
Publishers Report a 9-Percent 2021 Revenue IncreasePolish book industry representatives say they’re looking optimistically at the new year, their enthusiasm fueled by the sector’s sales growth since the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic’s onset and increasing institutional support for translations and international releases of books by Polish authors.
These two trends were highlighted by the participants of this year’s edition of the market’s annual Book Forum, an online publishing industry conference, organized by the ebook subscription service Legimi and Literacka Technologie, a an IT vendor for the publishing industry.
Speaking on the event’s first day in a discussion titled “The Book Market After the Pandemic,” Ewa Tenderenda-Ożóg, president of the publishing-industry research firm Biblioteka Analiz, said that 2021 brought a solid sales increase in Poland, and that one of the potential drivers of this growth is a proliferation of digital retailers.
A ‘Stable’ Situation
“The financial situation of publishers is stable,” Tenderenda-Ożóg said. “Poles have not reduced their spending on books. Even data for 2020 was unexpectedly good. Publishers reported a 9-percent increase in their revenues to about 2.6 billion złotys” (US$651 million).
Despite initial losses in the spring of 2020, the industry’s performance in Poland differed from that of the Czech Republic where book sales dropped by about 10 percent in 2020, she said, adding that in Greece, the book market contracted by 9.4 percent.
Last year, “Sales in Portugal decreased by 17 percent,” Tenderenda-Ożóg said, “partly because of a weakly developed online retail infrastructure.”
At the same time, she said, Polish publishers have struggled to keep their profit margins above water even with comparatively stronger showings in 2020, in part because of higher paper and printing costs, as well as increased pressure by distributors who want larger shares of cover prices.
Mikołaj Małaczyński, the co-founding chief executive of Legimi, said during the discussion that local industry players intensified their online presence during their pandemic “so we wouldn’t lose readers to other forms of entertainment,” competing for readers’ attention.
“Our platform reported 1 million copies” of downloaded ebooks “last year,” Małaczyński said. “In general, Poland’s e-commerce rose 26 percent in 2020, representing 8 to 10 percent of retail sales.” As a subscription operator in digital formats, his assessment was that e-commerce protected publishers from what could have been much deeper challenges to their revenues.
International Rights Progress
The participants of another panel discussion held on the event’s second day, “Polish Literature Abroad: How to Reach the Global Market With a Book,” discussed perspectives on promoting Polish authors abroad.
Agnieszka Urbanowska, project manager for international programs at the Polish Book Institute, said that her institution allocates grants to support the publication of Polish books abroad, with funds available for book translations and promotion, but also for the purchase of international rights.
The institute’s “Publishing proposals program is relatively new,” Urbanowska said, “and under it the Book Institute can finance the cost of preparing a publishing proposal—a sample translation and a presentation, summary of a book and its topic.” Publishers then submit this proposal to international publishing houses.
“Every author dreams of being published in English,” Urbanowska said, adding that publications of Polish works in the English-language market are most often preceded by their release in Poland’s neighboring countries including Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
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