European and International Booksellers: The 2022 Market Report

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The European and International Booksellers Federation again examines bookselling trends, this time with input from 16 nations.

Image: BIEF, ‘Global Bookselling Markets 2022’

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

‘Performance and Trends’
Today (July 7), the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) in Brussels has provided to the media its 2022 Global Bookselling Markets Report.

Coming to the press as it does on the heels of the release by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels of Germany’s 2022 market assessment on Wednesday, it’s interesting to note some echoes of pressures in the wider post-pandemic marketplace. In the EIBF introduction, we read, “War in Ukraine, soaring inflation and [the] energy crisis, all threatening once again the sustainability of the business.

“As in the previous two years, EIBF has collaborated with its members and partners … to create a report that sums up in the most extensive way possible the performance and trends that underpin the bookselling markets in 2022.”

This year, the report is drawn from input provided by 16 countries (as opposed to 18 countries in last year’s edition). The countries participating this year comprise:

  • Czech Republic
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

The federation lists 22 markets’ member booksellers’ associations. It also has 12 associate members, which are bookstores, some of them located in markets represented by booksellers’ associations. And there are three business members: Gardners EU in France; Nielsen Book in the United Kingdom; and Ingram Content Group in the United States. Through these various memberships, the group says that it “speaks on behalf of more than 25,000 individual booksellers, a handsome range of representation.

What information was sent by the 16 participating market is in some way augmented, as well, we understand, by “supporting information on other markets gathered throughout the year by EIBF.”

The intent, the group writes, is “to position this report as the primary go-to source for global data on bookselling and to give back to booksellers an overview of content that belongs to them.” That’s an honorable goal but one that will take a far broader level of cooperation and input than is available now—something being stressed by Karine Pansa, the president of the International Publishers Association (IPA) in her call for upgraded and harmonized data in world publishing. Global means “of or relating to the entire world,” as Merriam-Webster from Britannica Digital Learning reminds us. International is an accurate term and by that criterion, the EIBF report is successful and valuable.

What’s more, the dual dynamics understood in most markets are well represented here.

One is last year’s downturn in sales as markets surfaced from the effects of the pandemic. Half of the markets addressed in this report, BIEF says, “experienced a clear decrease in book sales” in 2022, while the others reported comparative stability and even some gains. The second main dynamic is that combination of impact from inflation; production costs; and energy challenges in part related to the unprovoked and illegal assault by Russia on Ukraine.

Nevertheless, the federation sees in the performance of the participating markets’ booksellers the same adaptability, agility, and determination that has won them applause and appreciation throughout the tough international three-year slog of hurdles. The federation cites 247 bookstores opening in 2022 in the United States, and 142 in France.

Top-Line Observations

Image: BIEF, ‘Global Bookselling Markets 2022’

With so many arrows pointing downward in 2022’s reporting markets, the EIBF document makes the point that 2021’s performance was, as we all know, fueled in part by the conditions of  the pandemic and thus was something of a setup for ensuing declines in many, many markets—the unavoidable return to more “normal” returns from abnormal ones.

And of course, though consumers’ spirits were willing, their wallets were weakened by inflation and rising energy costs by the time of the emergence in most markets from the heaviest effects of the coronavirus COVID-19.

A perceptive observation here: The “reopening of other cultural venues” following the medical emergency “meant that booksellers were back to competing with other cultural and leisure activities.” It’s good to see this recognized, as many in publishing tend not to recognize the competitive overhang of various major entertainment media.

As has been especially well outlined by German publishing practitioners, a softening in urban centers has challenged bookstore footfall, and this, too, along with social-media energies are mentioned by EIBF in its report.

You can access the report at 24 pages (PDF) here.

In Lisbon, November 22, outside Livaria Bertrand-Chiado. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Sonia Bonet

More on bookstores and bookselling is here, more on the European and International Booksellers Federation is here, more on digital publishing is here, and more on industry statistics is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson 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 International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, 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.