International Book Markets on the Upswing

The international book markets recorded a significant increase in sales in the first half of 2021 – both compared to the same period of the previous year and to the first six months of 2019, when there were still no restrictions in book retailing.

This was the result of a special analysis by GfK Entertainment. As their study, which covers nine countries, shows, sales increased by more than a third in some cases within a year – for example in Brazil (plus 33.4 percent) and in Spain (plus 38.3 percent). In a two-year comparison, growth here was still 16.3 and 12.8 percent respectively. In Italy, growth compared to 2020 was around 36.8 percent, and in France as much as 43.4 percent.

The sales curve in the first half of 2021 has so far been somewhat flatter in the Netherlands (plus 4.3 percent). In Germany, the trend was also positive-single digits compared to the first half of 2020 (plus 4.1 percent), but down 4.9 percent compared to 2019. The Swiss book market ended the first six months of 2021 up 11.1 percent, while Portugal and the Belgian regions of Flanders and Wallonia reported increases of 18.9, 16.8 and 33.8 percent, respectively.

Non-fiction trumps fiction
Sales growth in the first half of 2021 was accompanied by increased average prices in almost all countries. Although sales also developed positively in most cases, the growth rates here were lower than for sales in eight of the nine regions analyzed.

In most of the countries analyzed, nonfiction and how-to books grew even more strongly than the fiction segment. Cookbooks, life and financial guides, and feminism titles were also in high demand. Comics, including mangas in particular, were the fastest-growing product group in France, Italy and Spain.

Streaming boom also reaches the book market 
Since the early 2000s, cinema blockbusters such as "Harry Potter" and "The Tribute to Panem" had fueled sales of the corresponding books. Now that many cinemas have had to close for months and streaming services are booming unabatedly, the influence of hit series such as "Bridgerton" or "Lupin" is becoming increasingly apparent. 

These helped the books by Julia Quinn and Maurice Leblanc gain increased attention in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain, for example. The mini-series "The Queen's Gambit," also released on Netflix, led to a run on game and chess manuals in Italy.

Interest in e-books wanes
The e-book sales channel, which was considered separately, was unable to continue the positive development from the previous year in many places. While digital books were still in the black in Flanders (up 16.5 percent) and the Netherlands (up 12.7 percent) in 2020 as a whole, for example, the figures there were down 3.6 and 5.3 percent respectively in the first half of 2021. Switzerland and Spain also reported a decline, whereas according to Gfk Entertainment, the e-book trend in Germany (plus 9.6 percent) is continuing.