Spain Reports Book Market Growth in 2021: Up 5.6 Percent

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The Spanish book market is reporting revenues of €2.5 billion in 2021, a gain of 5.6 percent over 2020, but some softening in overseas trade.

A look at print (center) vs. digital (right) book publishing numbers in the 2021 performance of the Spanish book publishing market. Image: Federación de Gremios de Editores de España

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

See also: Last year’s report Spain’s Publishers: COVID-19 Boosted Readership to a Record High in 2020 and Frankfurt’s 2022 Guest of Honor Spain Presents Its Pavilion Plans

Largest Annual Turnover Increase in This Century
Releasing its new 2021 data today (July 19), the Federación de Gremios de Editores de España (Federation of Publishers’ Guilds of Spain, FGEE) is reporting revenues of €2.5 billion in 2021 (US$2.56 billion), a gain of 5.6 percent over 2020.

Last year, the federation says, its book publishers sold a total 174 million print units, an increase of 5.9 percent over 2020’s total. In digital products, Spain recorded 13.49 million downloads, a gain of 1.7 percent over digital titles’ performance in 2020.

This welcome jump in sales in 2021 is the largest annual increase in turnover achieved in this century by the Spanish book market. It is better by 2.4 percent than the increase seen in 2020 over 2019. It also sets a strong, upbeat tone for the Guest of Honor Spain programming now in final preparation for Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 19 to 23).

Several further top-line points from this new “internal trade” analysis from the federation:

  • All publishing segments grew, except for non-university textbooks
  • Editorial production in 2021 reached 79,373 titles—55,197 print and 24,176 digital
  • Average circulation remained the same (+0.4 percent) and stood at 3,590 copies per title
  • The average price of paper titles last year was €13.97
  • Digital books again increased turnover by 6.8 percent to €134.79 million
  • Digital publishing remains around 5 percent of total sales
  • The number of download and/or sales amounts to 13.49 million. Titles sold in digital format reached 186,887 in 2021
  • Bookstores and bookselling chains continue to be the main distribution channels for books, representing 53.8 percent of sales
  • Internet book sales in print continued to rise, increasing they increased by 23.9 percent compared to 2020 and accounted for 2 percent of the total

Several key metrics from the new report on the Spanish market’s 2021 performance. Image: Federación de Gremios de Editores de España

International Market

Nevertheless, the new Spanish publishing report indicates the timeliness of Spain’s appearance as the featured market at Frankfurt, a role that annually presents the guest-of-honor country with a major advantage in international rights deals and translation opportunities. The year 2021, as it happens, showed a slight step back in Spain’s international rights sales revenue, 0.7 percent below those of 2020. In 2021, the market registered €388.9 million (US$398.2 million) as compared to €391.7 in 2020 (US$401.2 million).

Daniel Fernández

“Both the increase in sales and reading rates are positive news for the publishing sector as a whole and also for our cultural progress,” says federation president Daniel Fernández in a prepared statement, but “we must continue working to recover the foreign market figures that are still affected by everything that has happened in these two years.”

What many rights specialists will find interesting is that the main point of softness in international trade for Spain is in graphic novels and other visually led formats such as comics. the analysis shows graphic content producing €43.88 million in 2021 as opposed to €51.18 million in 2020 (US$44.9 million vs. US$52.4)—and this after the previous year’s comparison had shown a gain of 1.3 percent.

At this point, the federation isn’t offering a rationale for why the Spanish market may have seen a slowdown in the graphic sector, one that in other international markets has seemed to be making strides forward.

The cover of the 2022 Spanish publishers’ report, created by Conecta

In geographical regions, Latin America, of course, remains the main destination for Spain’s exports, coming to €180.55 million in 2021, 2.07 percent less than in 2020. Mexico is Spain’s most lucrative recipient of Spanish exports in Latin America (€62.9 million), but is registered as having contributed €13 million less in revenue in 2021 than in 2020.

Spain’s exports to its sister member-nations in Europe products were  valued at €136.35 million (US$139.5 million) in 2021, a notable gain of 8.54 percent over 2020. The French market was especially receptive to Spanish books, at €62.5 million, an increase of some €19 million in 2021 over 2021.

The federation reports that Oceania, Africa, and Asia are also rising in important in international trade for Spanish books.

As for international literature coming into Spain, there was a drop in imports, with the value of such product coming in at €105.86. The balance of trade, the federation says, remains positive at €283 million (US$289.7 million), which is €32.21 million more than in 2020.

A breakdown of Spanish publishing by language in 2022. Image: Federación de Gremios de Editores de España

Domestic Market

Sales of children’s and YA books grew by 17.8 percent and adult fiction by 8.2 percent.

Nonfiction books increased their sales by 7.7 percent, to €770.92 million (US$789.2 million).

Ironically, although graphics content was sagging in Spain’s international trade, it was growing on the domestic market, 6.7 percent over 2020.

As for sales points, bookstores are Spain’s first book distribution channel, billing in 2021 around €900 million (US$921.1 million), which accounts for 35.2 percent of the total and 8.2 percent more than the previous year. This, added to sales registered by bookstore chains (18.6 percent), accounts for 53.8 percent of the total.

The largest increase in the turnover of print books in 2021 occurred in digital retail channels, however, as was seen in 2020 , although this time the percentage increase was slightly lower. Through online retail, €51 million were invoiced, €10 million more than in 2020.

Once again, the federation’s report is produced with the support of Spain’s ministry of culture and sport.

If anything, the good news in the books business may be hard to celebrate this week, as Spain continues to suffer some of the most dramatic challenges in Europe from soaring temperatures and wildfires. Within hours of this story’s preparation, ABC News’ Christine Theodorou and Teddy Grant have reported at least 1,169 heat-related deaths in Spain and Portugal, per figures from the two countries’ ministries of health. The emergency gripping Europe and pushing the United Kingdom’s temperatures to 40.2 Celsius for the first time on record is starkly concerning.

A review of past years’ market performances. Image: Federación de Gremios de Editores de España


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Spanish market is here, and more on publishing statistics is here. More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, and more from us on guest of honor programs in world trade shows and book fairs is here.

And more on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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