During EIBF‘s latest international call, held on 15 May 2023, representatives from member associations gathered to discuss updates, challenges, and initiatives in bookselling across various countries. Read more to learn about the key takeaways from the call.
Joy Dallanegra-Sanger, COO of the American Booksellers Association (ABA), reported encouraging growth in the number of brick-and-mortar bookstores across the USA since the pandemic, with 446 new stores opened and another 170 stores in the pipeline. However, she highlighted challenges, including a softening of sales in recent months and increasing concerns about banned books. ABA is currently exploring opportunities to support B2B business, particularly with schools.
Laura McCormack from the Booksellers Association of the UK and Ireland (BA) mentioned the need for support in Ireland due to instances of bookshops being targeted for promoting LGBT literature. The BA is currently working on creating a support kit for its Irish members. Jessica Sänger from the German Booksellers and Publishers Association discussed the importance of collaboration in addressing similar challenges faced by the international publishing and bookselling community.
Members from various countries expressed concerns about the rise of censorship and attacks on bookshops. Jean Luc Treutenaere, EIBF co-President, shared an incident in France where a bookshop's entrance was covered during a demonstration. Laura de Heredia from SLF, the French Independent Booksellers Association, highlighted activists trying to disrupt an event in a bookshop. Fabian Paagman, EIBF co-President and owner of Paagman bookshops, raised concerns about children's books being exploited for political agendas.
In more general updates, Laura McCormack shared positive feedback from UK and Irish booksellers, with overall stability in the market despite challenges such as increasing prices and supply chain issues. Maria Hamrefors from the Swedish Booksellers Association discussed worries about rising salaries and energy costs in Sweden. Graça Santos from the Portuguese Independent Bookshops network expressed concerns about slow sales, rising costs, and declining membership.
Joy Dallanegra-Sanger, representing the American Booksellers Association (ABA), mentioned a shift in how stores open in the United States. There has been a rise in mobile stores, pop-up shops, and online-only retailers. It is possible that some of these businesses may later transition to brick-and-mortar establishments, highlighting the dynamic nature of the retail landscape.
Graça Santos added to the discussion, stating that Portuguese bookshops have also adapted by moving predominantly online, including through pop-up ventures. This shift demonstrates the industry's resilience and ability to embrace alternative models to reach customers.
Shifting the focus to the Dutch book market, Fabian Paagman mentioned a significant increase in the demand for English-language books in recent years. While this trend has created opportunities for booksellers, it poses a challenge for publishers, some of whom have had to lay off a considerable number of employees to adapt to market shifts. Despite this, the Dutch booksellers association remains strong, although two key staff members will be stepping down in the upcoming months.
Raluca Selejan, a bookseller and owner of La Două Bufniţe bookshop in Romania, shared concerns about declining sales in her country. Sales have dropped to the level of 2009, causing worry among publishers. Raluca mentioned that the Romanian Ministry of Culture has proposed a fixed price law, which is still under analysis and awaits voting. It remains to be seen whether this law will be implemented, as the publishers association does not agree with it.
The international calls provide a platform for EIBF members to exchange updates, share concerns, and identify areas where collective efforts can drive positive change in the bookselling community. During the latest call, participants emphasized the importance of collaboration and sharing experiences to address common challenges faced by booksellers worldwide. EIBF is determined to focus on issues related to banned books, censorship, and supporting the industry during turbulent times.