Overshadowed by its French and Dutch neighbours, Belgium is possibly not the first place that springs to mind when thinking about vibrant European book markets, but that could be to miss an exciting opportunity.
In the new year I’ll be taking a closer look at the smaller and micro-markets of Europe, which are full of surprises.
Here just to reflect on 123,000 people turning up at a book fair in Belgium.
It’s all to easy to fall for the faux narratives surrounding the publishing industry and conclude reading is yesterday’s past-time and that in the modern world of video streaming, music streaming and video games the book industry is clinging to survival.
The reality is rather different. Time after time after time book fairs and literary festivals draw crowds on a scale other cultural events cannot come close to.
Just this past week we’ve seen 1.1 million people attend a book fair in Algeria and 2.52 million attend a book fair in the United Arab Emirates.
123,000 went to a book fair in Belgium last week, up 3,000 on last year. See past TNPS reports for countless more examples from other countries.
Around the world TNPS is tracking upwards of 50 million people attending book events globally outside the US and UK .
Alongside these we see digital book subscription services growing by the day, while audiobook sales soar, print holds its own and ebooks, to the extent that they are suffering at all, are hindered only by deliberate high-pricing by some publishers to protect other formats.
And beyond this we see online reading in other untracked arenas growing phenomenally.
As we say goodbye to the last few weeks of 2019 we should be excited and awed by the opportunities unfolding for the 2020s, not feeding faux narratives about the death of reading.