The Polish Book Chamber has heard arguments for and against its long-running effort at legislation to established fixed book pricing.
By Jaroslaw Adamowksi | Publishers Perspective
Booksellers Lead the Opposition
The Polish Chamber of Books (Polska Izba Książki, PIK) is holding consultations through Tuesday (May 18) on a draft bill that introduces fixed book pricing to the market.
The legislation would fix a price for books for 12 months, allowing booksellers to offer a maximum discount of 5 percent in regular retail settings, and 15 percent at book fairs. A number of online booksellers are protesting the proposal, asserting that it could undermine Poland’s book sales and deprive less affluent readers of access to new releases.
In a statement from the chamber’s president, Sonia Draga, the organization says that the proposed measures are a product of years of discussions. The bill’s first draft was written in 2017.
In an interview with Publishing Perspectives, Włodzimierz Albin, a board member of the chamber, says that the draft bill on the fixed book price “is not related to fiscal issues, but it introduces some changes to the rules that apply to the publishing market. It isn’t a novelty in Europe, as the majority of major European countries have implemented such rules that apply to books, and these countries represent more than 60 percent of the European Union’s population.”
Albin says that while some industry observers use the term “minimum book price,” the term is misleading.
“We’re talking about a uniform price for new releases, determined by publishers and respected by retailers. This is quite obvious in the majority of European countries,” he says.
As previously reported, 13 European countries have fixed pricing on books, including Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain. Outside of Europe, countries in which books are sold on a fixed-price system include Argentina, Japan, and Mexico.
Online Booksellers Protest Fixed Prices
Piotr Sroka, the marketing manager of online bookseller Gandalf argues that introducing fixed book prices could trigger higher prices for new titles, and, as a result, lead to a drop in their sales.
“This will be related to a lack of discounts which means that readers will have to turn to older titles, as they won’t be able to afford new titles, which will be much more expensive,” Sroka tells Publishing Perspectives.
“And there are more consequences,” he says.
“We must be aware that the budgets for purchases by companies, state institutions, schools, and libraries will become significantly burdened. Small stores will only have access to a standard offer. Large store chains could be treated preferentially, as they’re able to influence publishers and pressure them, for instance by asking them to release limited editions of certain books at lower prices for them.
Sroka also says some Polish publishers could turn to reducing the quality of their books by switching to cheaper paper and outsourcing printing to low-quality businesses.
“The lack of new releases and quality will definitely translate into a drop in book reading,” he says. “We want to intervene in a timely way, noticing this potential problem before it’s too late so that Polish readers preserve their right to unrestricted access to legal culture.”
The draft bill has also drawn criticism from other Poland-based online booksellers. Wojciech Mazia, a management board member at the online bookstore Bonito, has released an open letter to his company’s customers in which he calls on readers “who care about buying books for the lowest possible prices” to voice objections to the draft bill.
Another online bookseller, TaniaKsiazka, has launched an online petition to combat the legislative proposal.
“We fear that along with higher book prices, the level of book reading will also fall,” reads a statement from TaniaKsiazka.
According to research from Poland’s National Library, reading rates have been rising in recent years. In 2020, Poland’s book reading levels, the report indicates, were at their highest levels in six year. The same report also indicates that close to 33 percent of respondents don’t have any books in their homes, according to TaniaKsiazka’s said in a statement accompanying the petition which, as of May 17, has amassed about 3,400 signatories.
Data released by the National Library last April suggests that, in 2020, 42 percent of respondents said they’d read at least one book in the past 12 months. This represented an increase of 3 percent compared with a year earlier, and up 5 percent compared with 2018.
Sharjah Book Authority and Ingram Content Group announced a joint venture, Lightning Source Sharjah, a print-on-demand installation at the Sharjah Publishing City free trade zone.
by Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | Publishing Perspective
Ahmed Al Ameri: ‘Outreach Into Regional Markets’
Creating one of the Middle East’s first large-scale print-on-demand installations, Ingram Lightning Source and Sharjah Book Authority have announced today (November 23) the opening of a major facility at the world’s first free trade zone for publishing, Sharjah Publishing City.
The news comes more than two years after the Book Authority’s chair Ahmed Al Ameri and Shawn Morin, president and CEO of Ingram Content Group, signed their agreement of intent at what would be the final iteration of BookExpo in New York.
The development of this printing center has been understood to be an essential component in the promise of Sharjah Publishing City to become a publishing gateway into the Arab world and African markets of world publishing.
The potential importance of the new facility lies in the region’s longstanding need for robust production and distribution. As today’s media messaging puts it, this new capacity–put together as a joint venture named Lightning Source Sharjah between Ingram Content Group and Al Ameri’s Sharjah Book Authority–”will expand access to content and enable publishers to meet consumer demand more rapidly in the area.”
In making the announcement that the new facility is now becoming a reality, Al Ameri says, “Sharjah Publishing City is pleased to partner with Lightning Source in creating this print-on-demand facility.
“It represents an important addition to the free zone’s operational capabilities and will offer publishers, retailers, and other stakeholders significant opportunities to expand their access to books and content, as well as their outreach into regional markets.
“The establishment of Lightning Source Sharjah, Ingram’s first print-on-demand facility in the region, is indicative of the strategic opportunities Sharjah provides to publishing business in the region, and also firmly reflects on the emirate’s leading status on the global cultural stage.”
John Ingram: ‘Fueling the Modern-Day Publishing Industry’
John Ingram, the chair of Ingram Content Group, says, “We have long enjoyed a strong partnership with Sharjah Book Authority and are excited about the opportunity this new venture brings for Sharjah, Ingram, and the broader Middle East and Gulf region.
“I would also like to personally thank His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi for allowing us to be part of this important initiative in Sharjah.
“Print-on-demand is fueling the modern-day publishing industry, making the digital and physical distribution of diverse content across different languages and regions seamless. “This new facility will bring these world-class innovations to scale in the Middle East in a way that will benefit the publishing world and consumers alike.”
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, Sharjah Publishing City was opened by Sheikh Sultan during Sharjah International Book Fair in 2017 and comprises a facility of more than 40,000 square meters. Its offices and operational spaces have been renting since then to various publishing-related companies and enterprises, as the concept of its free-trade hub for the region came together.
The announcement in 2019 that Ingram would indeed be coming in as the over-arching anchor tenant of this new facility was a major one: many commercial and creative parties interested in Sharjah’s development as the United Arab Emirates’ leading emirate in book publishing have watched for the fulfillment of Ingram’s plan to place its print-on-demand installation at Sharjah Publishing City.
David Taylor, the London-based senior vice-president at Ingram for content acquisition, is quoted today, saying, “The creation of this facility is a significant development for the book trade within this region.
“It will bring pioneering technology and innovation to the forefront of meeting consumer demands in a rapidly growing and important part of the world.
“Ingram works with tens of thousands of publishers from around the world and is trusted with many millions of their titles in our Lightning Source print on demand supply model.
“The Sharjah operation will be an additional distribution option for our publishers and there’s great excitement about the potential. We’re excited to work with our publishers, retailers and others to enable them to use the power of print-on-demand to facilitate global distribution in powerful new ways through this joint venture.”
And this new announcement caps a big month for Sharjah Book Authority and the emirate, which reports an attendance of 1.69 million at its 2021 Sharjah International Book Fair, the 11-day run of which was preceded by the largest-yet professional programs for this fair, a three-day trade-show event with more than 500 book-publishing professionals in place. This was the 40th iteration of the fair and it opened what will be a year of observances and celebrations of the United Arab Emirates’ 50th jubilee.
More from Publishing Perspectives on Sharjah and the United Arab Emirates’ publishing market is here, and more on Sharjah Publishing City is here. More from us on Ingram Content Group is here, more on Sharjah Book Authority is here, more on Sharjah International Book Fair is here, and more on publishing’s trade shows, book fairs, and festivals is here.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.
By Jim Milliot | Publishers Weekly Nov 26, 2021
AMI Note: While there was a lot of hope that the COVID19 sales for books were better than 2019 based on various reports, it is clear that NOT everyone enjoyed the benefits of those sales. Especially hit hard were the Indie Authors who relied on in-person one-on-one buys and other avenues that were not necessarily open to them as it was for the Big 4 publishing houses.
When the Association of American Publishers released its final industrywide sales report for 2020 last month, it showed another basically flat year, with sales of $25.71 billion, down 0.2% compared to 2019. The small decline was in keeping with the overall pattern over the past five years. Between 2016 and 2020, overall publishing sales rose only in 2019, up 1.7% over 2018, and 2020 sales were down 3.9% compared to 2016.
The trade segment, the industry’s largest, has been the steadiest performer over the past five years, with sales up 3.1% in 2020 compared to 2016. The adult category was the main driver, with sales rising 4.9%, while sales in the children’s/YA category fell 0.8%. The decline in children’s/YA is slightly deceiving, since 2016 was an exceptionally strong year for children’s/YA fiction, where sales were $3.96 billion—a total that has not been reached since. The religious presses category had the largest increase over the period, overcoming an 8.4% decline in 2020 that was largely due to the lockdown of bookstores and religious institutions.
The higher education and professional books categories had the biggest sales declines between 2016 and 2020; the professional category had a particularly difficult 2020, with sales falling 14.5% compared to 2019. Sales in the higher ed category have declined steadily since 2016, and publishers have been trying to adjust to increased student purchases of digital materials, which tend to be less expensive than print. Pre-K–12 instructional sales had hit $4.38 billion in 2019 before falling 12.3% in 2020 due to the pandemic, which shrank textbook purchases and accelerated the shift to digital materials. The growing importance of digital content has led a number of former textbook publishers to refashion themselves as learning technology companies.
In addition to greater sales of digital materials, the pandemic led to a 19.2% increase in online sales in 2020 over 2019, to $9.5 billion overall. The AAP also noted that 2020 was the first time that the online channel, dominated by Amazon, accounted for more than 50% of trade sales. In 2016, online sales accounted for 39.5% of trade sales. Within the trade segment (among which the AAP includes the religious category), the lockdowns last year resulted in a 9.9% decline in sales through physical retail compared to 2019. Physical retail accounted for 16.7% of trade sales in 2020, down from 23.4% in 2016.
The final 2020 results tracked closely to preliminary results issued earlier this year, which also found sales to be even with 2019. The preliminary results were based on revenue reports supplied by 1,354 publishers to AAP’s StatShot program. The final numbers include the StatShot revenue plus estimates for publishers that don’t report to the AAP. In addition, the AAP incorporated information from Bowker’s Books in Print database to ensure that it captured all active publishers in its report, including small publishers.
2022 is the Year of the Reader - Time to get ready to say Thank You to your readers all year long. For program ideas, supplies, and the 2022 Read-A-Thon program for all ages, check out HTTP://Readers.DEARIndie.org