The excess of novelties leads to 60% of the books that are published in Spain to the guillotine

Too many books for so few readers and bookstore space. That could be the summary of the study presented by Juan Miguel Salvador, from the Diógenes de Alcalá de Henares bookstore, at the XXV Bookstore Congress, which highlights that 86 percent of the titles offered and published in Spain sell less than 50 copies as a result of the excess of literary novelties. And it is that the high number of publications in the market prevents books from being kept in bookstores for the average time necessary to be sold and, therefore, the rotation of titles does not increase.

“The book industry has been dragging serious inefficiencies for years due to the excess of novelties. So much so that sometimes it is impossible to know how many literary novelties there are per month. The cultural, economic and environmental impact of this model is unacceptable and the energy crisis is going to force it to change”, highlights the study.

But in addition, 80 percent of a bookstore’s sales are just over 20 percent of the titles, and only 0.1 percent of these sell more than 3,000 copies despite the fact that “the publishing market is at a impressive” after the coronavirus pandemic, which raised the percentage of citizens who regularly read from 62 to 65%, and increased reading time from 6 hours and 55 minutes per week to 8 hours and 25 minutes. « Reading has grown in all autonomies, has grown especially among the youngest and, in addition, 7 out of 10 Spaniards prefer bookstores as a point of sale. In Spain, the average expenditure per person on books, magazines and newspapers is €98.95 per year. In 2021, during Book Day, each Spaniard allocated an average of €28 per movement in purchases of literary content during that day,  according to Bankinter data .

Figures that in turn show that usually “more background than novelty is sold”. «In the edition there is a waste that in times of need would require containment. The editor does not have time to read, so he orders reading reports from outsiders. The translator works on the run, as if the world were going to end, because impossible deadlines are imposed on him if he wants to translate well. Proofreaders, proofreaders. Everyone in the race, and that race leads nowhere, “says Enrique Murillo, Doctor of Literature from the University of London in an interview for Letra Global .

Enrique Redel, editor of the independent publishing house Impedimenta, is not surprised by the figures or conclusions of the study, since “50 copies seem too many. The current life of a book is three months in the window, with luck it achieves a sale of fifty copies. Today the rotation is very short and although it is true that the publishing sector has always worked in the same way, the return figures have increased considerably. In our case, as an independent publisher, we play with a 30% return on the total number of copies, but in the case of large groups we would be talking about up to 60%. The excess supply harms the reader’s taste, and perhaps trivializes the book, which in the end is an object important enough in the history of culture to house worthy content “,The Independent.

And similar is the opinion of Oihan, editor of Yonki Books and Next Door Publishers, who believes that publishers currently work with a model that “is no longer sustainable.” «We work with the deposit model and this absorbs all the novelties offered by the sector and therein lies the problem. Publishers publish a huge amount of news because it is the only way to have a presence in bookstores or an essence in the market».

When they leave bookstores or other points of sale, the books end up in a warehouse that has its costs for publishers and distributors. Many are destroyed to make paper pulp, and others are sold to companies that put them back on the market at bargain prices. However, in Spain, publishers “prefer the first option.” «Since 2007 the sale of books has fallen progressively. However, the number of titles that pass through a bookstore remains the same. If sales fall but the number of titles remains the same, the average per title falls and the return level is very high. Currently it is estimated that it is around 30% », he adds.

To try to eradicate the problem, the study proposes “a pact for the entire sector” that includes, among other measures, reducing the number of novelties, promoting quality over quantity, setting a goal to reduce returns or stimulating with more margin to bookstores that manage well.

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