Masterful, but ephemeral. French publishing performed like a charm in 2021, according to statistics published Thursday, June 30, by the National Publishing Union (SNE): the sector’s turnover jumped by 12.4% to 3.07 billion euros compared to 2020 and also remains up 9.7% compared to 2019. The recognition of bookstores as true essential businesses during the pandemic combined with a draconian restriction of other cultural offers has worked wonders .
The SNE underlines how much this performance has been carried “by the very good health of comics (+ 55.9%) and in particular manga, which benefited from a powerful breath of fresh air with the Culture Pass”. This improvement has irrigated the other categories such as general literature (+ 4.9%), human and social sciences (+ 4.5%), but even more practical books (+ 17.1%), religious works and esotericism (+32.8%), or even art books and beautiful books, which had suffered in 2020 (+49.5%). Conversely, due to a lack of new textbooks, school books fell by 17.1%.
Through a catch-up effect – many publishers having canceled or postponed the publication of certain titles due to uncertainties linked to the health crisis – editorial production increased sharply in 2021, by 12.5%, to 109,480 titles. The craze for manga has, again, explained the exceptional increase in reprints.
Chinese is still by far the leading language for translating French books, followed by Italian, German, Spanish and Polish.
The paperback had a very good vintage in 2021, since 124 million copies were sold, generating nearly 422 million euros for publishers (+ 14.4%). In this format, literature still takes the lion’s share, with 60.7 million copies, and the SNE estimates that “the 2022 outlook for readers’ purchasing power suggests that the momentum in favor of paperbacks and the tendency of publishers to pay more and more attention to them should further increase”.
The digital book continued, in 2021, a moderate growth, but the statistics of the SNE still do not include data on the audio book. Finally, internationally, the activity of French publishing houses is on the rise again, with a high volume of rights sales (16,878 titles were sold for translations) and co-publishing, particularly in comics or books for young people. What is little known is that Chinese is still well ahead of the main languages for translating French books, followed by Italian, German, Spanish and Polish.
Will the edition remain on its little cloud this year? Nothing is less sure. According to another indicator, the Syndicat de la Librairie Française Observatory, book sales in half of the independent bookstores in France fell by 11.7% between 1er January and June 28. A return to normal? In any case, this is a very relative drop, since these half-yearly data remain up 10.9% compared to the same period of 2019.