When bookstores opened their doors during the state of alarm, uncertainty gave way to euphoria: out there was a population eager for reading and books. When the booksellers celebrated on April 23 and opened their doors, there were the lines at the threshold of their stores, with sales that were double those of 2019 and a historical record. When everyone thought that this was a bubble that would be punctured by the costs of the first almost normal vacations —for those who still kept their jobs—, the summer set aside a few euros to maintain the bookstore euphoria of the last year and grow in sales. These have increased in recent months by 10%, according to data from the Spanish Confederation of Booksellers Guilds and Associations (CEGAL) and its online sales platform todostuslibros.com.
Fewer booths, super-reduced capacity and suspense in the signatures: Madrid mounts its most complicated Book Fair
Why? “The feeling of reading consumption is better than in 2019,” says CEGAL spokesman Álvaro Manso, owner of the Luz y Vida bookstore (Burgos). He has found that the same customers who used to consume two books a month now take three. And the reaction after confinement was higher for a time. “Except for January, the rest of this year has surpassed 2019 in sales almost every month. Summer 2020 compared to 2019 was very good, but this has been better. I think the reason is in the titles that are on the table of novelties “, assures Manso.
The bookseller warns of the flood of great authors that the publishers have reserved for the return from vacation, coinciding with the celebration of the Madrid Book Fair. They have shifted their calendar from best sellers June to September. This interest has been evident in the meetings of the Fair’s organizing council, where the desire of the publishers was much greater than that of the booksellers. These have already closed an extraordinary year in sales and doubt the reward that a fair with such a limited capacity is capable of generating. As the organization explained to this newspaper during the 17 days of the event, only 15% of the regular public will be able to access the enclosure. No more than 300,000 people will circulate through the booths.
All for september
Pablo Bonet, secretary of the Madrid Libraries Guild and the Madrid Book Fair, confirms that the year 2021 will overtake 2019 and the Book Fair is still missing. He believes that this “love and fidelity” of readers with bookstores is a joy. “It is a surprise and we are very grateful,” he acknowledges. Calls for caution, moderation and caution in holding a special assembly, with fewer booths, less public and shorter. “It will be sold, but we don’t know how much because there will be less public. The bookstores have had an impressive avalanche of novelties, even higher than in other years. The placement of the Fair in September has affected all the bookstores in Spain in the flood. “adds Bonet.
September is an avalanche in the bookstores but with the Fair “it is too much”. Alfonso Tordesillas, owner of the Tipo Infames bookstore, says that he has arrived a lot and in a short time. “We live on the recommendation and we have not had time to read enough to recommend properly. There are very heavy weights,” he says. Alfonso recognizes the euphoria and optimism, and to explain it uses a very illustrative example: “It is happening as with the fuck friendWhen you lose it, you regret not having made it your partner. People have found the book again for the better and we are living a very sweet moment, “he says.
Tordesillas tends to see the bright side of life and does not break that habit during the assembly of the store booth at the Retiro Fair. He says it’s going to be a special date. “For the most readers. There will be no walk and peepers. The capacity will be a very important filter. That many people walk through the Retiro for the sponsors is good, but it does not have to be for the booksellers. The volume is not as good as the volume. quality. This should be considered by the organization for the future, “recommends Alfonso.
Patrici Tixis, president of the Federation of Publishers Guilds of Spain (FGEE) and dircom of the Planeta group, says that one of the factors that have kept the industry euphoric is that it has managed to resist the new cultural leisure. “During the confinement there were not only screens. A lot was read. The first half of 2021 has been very good and that there is a Book Fair in the second part is going to be very good. It is very good news. And the editorial harvest is very good. good because there are news that invite you to read, “he says. The bitter side is that of the companies that export and deal with Latin America because there sales have fallen by half.
Diversity at risk
So 2020, despite everything, was not a bad year for bookstores, but it was a bad year for publishing. The Ministry of Culture has recently published the data that reveals the disaster for book publishing caused by the health crisis caused by the coronavirus. 2020 saw a 13% drop in the publication of new titles, from 90,075 titles registered in the ISBN in 2019, 78,422 were registered. Literary creation was the one that suffered the most, with a reduction in titles of 24% (just over 12,000). Social sciences and humanities, 21% less. Children’s and youth books resisted better, with 11.5% fewer titles produced.
“It would be simplistic and inaccurate to focus only on the good news and conclude that the book sector has emerged unscathed from the COVID-19 crisis,” warns the Federation of European Publishers, which has just released a report on the balance of the sector before the health crisis. They acknowledge that in the damage assessment they prepared before July 2020, the loss pressures soared to 25%, but that the revision of the same was 2%. “It is not a good year, from any point of view, but it is far from disaster,” the study indicates.
European publishers acknowledge that these results have come as a surprise to all components of the book’s fragile ecosystem. “It seems that the book sector has a much higher degree of resilience than many predicted or even expected,” add those responsible for the Federation. Despite this, they demand a lot of attention from public authorities for those in the book chain who have endured the worst part of the crisis. Thanks to the aid, they explain, they will be able to ensure that they continue to contribute to the cultural diversity that we all value.
That’s the postcovid hangover threat. The federation indicates that this complicated and euphoric year will have consequences, in the long term, and will affect cultural diversity. Fewer titles have been published, concentration on online retailing has increased, smaller publishers have been hit hard and lesser-known authors have been hit too, in the view of European publishers. “If the trends are confirmed, the sector will have problems maintaining diversity and less diversity will aggravate the fragility that the crisis has inevitably generated in the sector,” they say. To avoid this risk, they ask for more aid for authors and readers, with support for the demand and not just the supply.