After a long and painful lockdown it was hardly surprising that many booklovers made a beeline for their nearest bookstore when the green light was given for booksellers to re-open their doors.
From May 11-17 unit sales in bricks & mortar stores were up 6.8% and revenue up 2.7% as lovers of the printed book rushed to get new stock.
But the long lockdown had also introduced many French booklovers to the convenience of digital, be it buying print books online (tempered by the closure for a while of the Amazon warehouses in France) or discovering the delights of the digital book.
Too soon to say how the new normal will level out, and among the factors impacting print book sales will be consumer income that will have taken a hit during lockdown. But the big fear, now seemingly being realised, was that some bookstore buyers may never come back.
In the second week of “deconfinement”, May 18-24, reports Livres Hebdo using statistics from GFK, book sales fell 8% in value and 9.1% in unit sales, and compared to the same period in 2019 revenue was down 10.9% and unit sales down 6.4%.
The latest numbers have led 625 publishing notables, from authors to publishers, to petition the French government to put together a “recovery package of several hundred million euros”, in the form of grants, loans fees exemptions and library purchases, to restore the industry’s fortunes.
At least, that’s the way it is being presented.
Yet as we are seeing in other countries, it may well be that it is not publishing per se that has taken the hit, but bricks & mortar book-selling, and that as the new normal settles in publishers may not be any worse off financially, just facing new marketing challenges where ebooks, digital audio and online print sales are a much bigger part of the retail landscape than hitherto.