By Jarosław Adamowksi | @JaroslawAdamows
‘This Enlightened Step by Legislators’Czech book industry representatives say they hope that after a challenging 2022, the introduction of a zero-percent value-added tax rate (VAT) on books could provide much-needed support to the country’s publishers and booksellers.
During 2022, the country’s book sales dropped to about 8.4 billion koruna (US$359.5 million), down around 3 percent year-over-year. That worrying data was released in the latest market report by the Prague-based Czech Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Association (SČKN).
The Czech Republic—frequently called Czechia by its government—was announced in early October to be the 2026 guest of honor program at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20). Organizers of the nation’s 2026 presence at Frankfurt say they’re preparing a wide range of cultural events which extend beyond literature, and are also developing their flagship program to support translations of Czech literary works into other languages.
Local publishing houses expect that this year’s tax cut on books could improve the situation in their market.
In a message on its home page, the association says, “On January 1, 2024, the approved adjustment of VAT on books came into effect. As of this date, books are exempt from VAT. To put it simply, the VAT rate for books is reduced from 10 percent to zero percent.
“We believe that this enlightened step by legislators—we’re finally at the forefront this time in Europe—will ultimately lead to an increase in the quality of reading in the Czech Republic, the development of Czech book culture, and accessibility for readers.
Looking for Boosts From the New VAT and Digital Publishing
Martin Sviták, the head of electronic resources at Grada Publishing—a house established in 1991—tells Publishing Perspectives that the year 2023 was also a turbulent one for the nation’s book publishing industry.
“After COVID-19, the start of a war in Ukraine, and a sharp increase in energy prices,” Sviták says, “the Czech market was affected by a high inflation for a second year in a row, “rising to the highest level in the EU. This translated into higher operational costs compared to the previous years. In sales, we felt reduced consumer confidence. We’re glad that despite this, our books found their way to readers and our revenue rose about 7 percent to 350 million koruna, or around €13.9 million euros” (US$14.9 million).
Despite the increase in revenue posted last year, Sviták says, Grada reported a slightly lower number of sold copies in 2023. In addition, he says, “We had to limit the number of new releases compared to our previous plans. In 2023, we published 397 print titles compared to 408 in 2022.”
Grada’s position, Sviták says, is that digital sales have the potential to serve as a pillar of the publisher’s growth in the coming years.
“We’re committed to continuously improving Bookport,” he says, “our online subscription service for unlimited reading, both in terms of book selection and user experience. We plan to continue improving our digital content offerings and digital services for customers, as well as raising the efficiency of our internal processes through digitization. We’re exploring for ways to expand our product range to include a broader portfolio.”
In addition to this, Sviták says he’s researching the potential of using artificial intelligence in its activities, while remaining “cautious about the negative impact of AI on the book market and copyrights.”
Asked about the potential impact of the reduced VAT rate on book sales in Czechia, Sviták says he expects the tax cut “will help us get back on track for growth and help stabilize the Czech book market as a whole. We can continue to publish a wide spectrum of books from fiction that people enjoy, along with personal-development content, and professional books for specific smaller target groups.
“Certainly, this move will positively influence both the Czech book market and Grada Publishing. It will benefit Czech readers and enrich the cultural landscape. Without this, there’d likely be a significant decline in the number and diversity of published books across the book market, especially in non-mainstream titles that often contribute greatly to societal diversity and enrichment.”
More from us on the Czech market and its issues is here, more on books, publishing, and value-added tax regimes (VAT) is here, more on industry statistics is here, more on the world’s international trade shows and book fairs is here, more on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on Frankfurt’s guest of honor program is here, and more on guest of honor programs in many parts of the world is here.