International Update: French Book Sales Decline in 2022; Revisiting the 'Bookseller of Kabul'

French book publishers' sales so far this year are down nearly 6%, but are more than 10% higher than the same period of 2019 before the Covid pandemic began, the Bookseller reported. Pierre Dutilleul, director of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l'Edition), said: "We have no need to worry for the moment. It is very difficult to predict the result for the full year, but I would expect a slight drop from 2021, which is normal after such an exceptional year."

Dutilleul noted that the 2022 first-half percentages follow confirmation from the SNE recently that sales rose last year by 9.7% over 2019 and 12.4% over 2020, for a total of €3.01billion (about $3.18 billion). Excluding school textbooks, the year-on-year increase in 2021 was 17.7%. 

In 2021 the number of copies sold increased by 15.3%, to 486.1 million, from 421.6 million a year earlier, reflecting the government's recognition of bookshops as an "essential trade" during most of the Covid-19 pandemic, the SNE said.

The number of titles published grew by 12.5%, to 109,480 in 2021 from 97,326 the year before, partly to catch up with delayed schedules during the months of lockdown. Paperbacks had a "very good year," according to the SNE. The number of copies sold rose 12.8% from 2020 to 121.4 million, and generated a 14.4% increase in publishers' income in this sector to €421.7 million (about $446.2 million). The figures are gathered from about 150 publishing houses, representing more than 650 imprints.


Shah Muhammad Rais, who gained international fame due to Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad's bestseller The Bookseller of Kabul, has "survived a succession of repressive regimes in Afghanistan. But two decades later he is living in a London Home Office hotel, having fled the Taliban to claim asylum in the U.K.," the Guardian reported. Rais arrived in the U.K. last September and claimed asylum at the airport. He is waiting for his case to be processed and is currently living alongside other asylum seekers from various conflict zones.

"The U.K. was the only door open to me to be safe from the Taliban," he said. 

His Kabul bookshop "is still open following the Taliban takeover, along with an online bookstore," the Guardian wrote. "He proudly hands over his business card--Shah M. Book Co, printers, publishers, booksellers, Shah Muhammad Rais, managing director."

Noting that he is unsure if the shop, established in 1974, can withstand the current challenges from the Taliban, Rais observed: "Very few are buying books now. I will keep the bookshop open as long as possible, maybe the Taliban will ban it or destroy it."

Rais and members of his family brought a legal action against Seierstad, claiming The Bookseller of Kabul was inaccurate and invasive, but after a "protracted legal battle an appeal court in Norway cleared the author of invading the privacy of the family and concluded the facts of the book were accurate," the Guardian wrote.

"If I am granted permission to work in the U.K., I would love to open an Afghan reading room at the British Library," Rais said. "I'm writing a book on Afghan land, culture and history and would like to open a multicultural, multi-language bookshop here for people from the region--from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran. That is what I'm dreaming of."


Buchhandlung LeseZeichen, a bookshop in Germering, Germany, is trying out a new customer-oriented approach to bookshelf organization. The European & International Booksellers Federation Newsflash reported that the system "is inspired by VLB, the central research platform for the German-language book trade, which organizes its database through so-called reading motifs. Through this system, each book is given one main motif, such as 'laugh' (for light-hearted, humorous books) or 'immerse' (for books that transport readers into a new fictitious universe). Katrin Schmidt, owner of LeseZeichen, is now implementing this structure in her bookshop, hoping to offer her customers a smoother shopping experience." --Robert Gray

Powered by: Xtenit