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Are Book Sales Growing Around the World?

Are you interested in learning which countries are experiencing a growth in book

sales? If so, this blog is for you, and you may get a few surprises. The blog

reproduces data from an email distributed by ASPG (a Member of the Australian

Publishers Association), and ASPG got the content from a survey article produced by

Impelsys ( Impelsys is an Indian-based digital

imprint publisher, who conducted a survey asking companies in the industry which

countries and publishing markets they wanted to learn more about, which parts of

the world they wanted to focus on in the coming year. The results are reproduced in

italics below:

1. Latin America.

Latin America is the number one region of interest among those who took our survey.

United by a common language, Spanish-speaking Latin America offers vast and

varying opportunities for the global book business. Improving economic conditions

and the rise of mobile access gives publishers more ways to reach their readers and

deliver content, whether that means ebooks or marketing messages. This is

particularly important in a region in which physical distribution between countries

poses a challenge.

More recently, Latin American publishers are looking to operate more independently

of the Spanish groups that once dominated the continent. A number of small and

independent publishers have sprung up and enlivened the literary scene, in part

because technology has lowered the cost of publishing.

Government funding for both education and culture has enabled more Latin

American publishers to seize international business opportunities and to build

visibility for home grown authors—through rights initiatives and attending

international events.

Of course, challenges still face the fragmented continent, but as the book business

continues to develop across Latin America, opportunities for international publishers

and service providers will continue to grow.

2. Middle East.

Second on the list is the combined interest in the Middle East region and the United

Arab Emirates. Another hot region for publishing growth, the opportunities here are


Governments here are prioritizing education and literacy, and they are spending

money to make sure their students have access to the best learning materials. Also,

in light of current events, there appears to be a growing interest in Europe and across

the West in better understanding Islam and politics in the Middle East.

One challenge in the region is censorship, whether imposed by governments or by

extremist and militant groups. Iran recently declared extended censorship policies,

and the Saudi government continues to protest Salman Rushdie’s works.

However, publishers’ associations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE have stated that they

want continued discussions about the “freedom to publish” and that their priority is

to support publishers.

Despite cultural divides, international partnerships are starting to address some of

the regional challenges—like distribution and piracy—and opportunities—like digital

publishing and bookselling. Several organizations, among them the Sharjah Book Fair

and the Sheik Hamad Award in Qatar, offer significant translation funding and foster

international cooperation.

3. UK.

With all the international outreach that the UK Publishers Association does

throughout the year—particularly with their focus on copyright, professional

training, and the rights trade—as well as the global focus of many publishers and

companies there, it’s no wonder that the UK ranks high on this list. The UK market is

strong, a promising place to find new business.

One of the leading topics coming out of the UK recently is the growing strength of

print book sales and relative stability of the bookselling business. Waterstones

removed Kindles from its shelves last year citing low interest in the devices amid

improved print sales. Foyles is betting on a hybrid digital/print model for many of its

physical stores. Across the country, chains and indie bookstores are reporting a rise in

print book sales.

On the digital side of the business, many UK start ups and established companies are

focused on the future of publishing. Publishers are excited by the opportunities that

mobile can bring, and are seeking to better understand that medium.

Authors in the UK are seeking a stronger voice and better pay. Most recently, a

number of prominent authors boycotted the Oxford Literary Festival to protest the

lack of fees paid to authors who speak at such events. Earlier this month, the Society

of Authors with the US Authors Guild led an international coalition in demanding

more favourable terms in publishing contracts.

4. Japan.

In an effort to stem the decline of reading and book buying in Japan, booksellers are

looking for ways to expand their appeal, both domestically and internationally.

Bookstore chain Kinokuniya has physical stores in multiple countries and is using its

e-commerce platform Asian Basis as a way to further do business abroad.

Kinokuniya has also started purchasing entire print runs of top books directly from

publishers to keep copies out of the hands of Amazon.

Recently, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry operating under the

national “Cool Japan” campaign, has put a focus on manga and nonfiction, as

opposed to literary fiction. This strategy might just be the right one, given the

international success of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and other similar

lifestyle books from Japan.

Interestingly, YA and juvenile books are not yet an established book category in

Japan. For rights sellers, this could mean that pitching YA titles to Japan could be a


5. Spain.

Perhaps because Spain shares its language with Latin America, because so many

Spanish publishers have Latin American offices, or because of the number of

publishing start ups originating here, Spain appears at number five on our list.

The Spanish Publishers’ Federation (FGEE) asserts that Spain’s book market is “highly

competitive” with other European markets like the UK, France and Germany. The

FGEE argues that Spain’s publishers are committed to digitizing their businesses and

content, and there is a new initiative to fight piracy. Not everyone agrees with this

rosy picture.

On the digital front, there are a number of start ups that do bear out the FGEE’s view

of Spain as digitally focused. 24symbols has made great strides in bringing mobile

books to readers around the world. Nubico is working in the ever-evolving ebook

subscription business, and Odilo, an ebook and audiobook distributor to libraries is

expanding around the world. There’s Tekstum, offering big data analytics to Spanish

publishers; and there’s Mylibretta, which offers social media analytics for publishers.

And last fall, two Barcelona-based literary agents launched The Spanish Bookstage,

an online rights and licensing platform for Spanish-language book titles.”

Thanks to ASPG for distributing this


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