Print book sales up, ebooks up and audiobook sales explode – in Finland

One of the great things about the Global New Renaissance is that it is just that: global.

Digital social media is driving awareness, access and supply of culture across all art forms and all formats, in all countries, across all languages and cultures, in a way quite unprecedented in human history, and quite unthinkable even ten years ago when the Kindle store first launched and the social media brands began to become world players.

But for many of us content suppliers in the west, and this especially so for authors and publishers, we are so focused on the one big, easy-access market that is the USA, that the opportunities unfolding in the rest of the world pass us by.

So it’s interesting to contrast the bleak picture Mike Shatzkin paints this week, of a US book market supposedly dancing to Amazon’s tune, with the so-called nascent markets like Finland, where Amazon is best known as a river in South America and, despite the absence of an Amazon store, a Kindle store or an Audible store, books, ebooks and audiobooks are all doing rather well.

Print Media Finland this week reports that, according to Finnish Book Trade Federation statistics, book sales in the largest bookstores grew 5.4% last year, with ebooks showing clear growth, while audiobook sales “exploded dramatically.”

As ever, the print picture wasn’t an even one, with the educational sector accounting for much of the growth, with curricula reform and general economic recovery both considered factors.

Ebooks saw 28% growth to EUR 1.8 million. But that compares with print sales of EUR 92.2 million, so still less than 2% of the market.

The reason being, of course, that so few titles are being digitized as ebooks because there are no major ebook players in the country to justify the costs..

That point is driven home when we compare audio, where explosive growth is driven by publishers taking audio seriously thanks to strong audiobooks outlets like Bonnier and Storytel.

Sweden’s Bonnier Bookbeat is the clear frontrunner right now in the Finnish audiobook market, with over EUR 1 million in revenue last year and expectations to double that this year.

In second place comes another Swedish player, Storytel, which only arrived in Finland in April 2016.

What’s interesting is that, rather than fight it out between them, Bonier Bookbeat FI and Storytel FI are putting consumers first and working together to ensure maximum reach for their titles.

And that means both audiobooks and ebooks.

While Storytel and Bonnier Bookbeat are both primarily audiobook focused, both have ebook arms and we can expect lots more synergies to develop between the two companies, both in the countries where they share operations, and beyond.

In a Bonnier Bookbeat FI press release a few days ago Bonnier outlined its cooperation agreement with Storytel and with Finnish publishing houses Tammi and WSOY, adding 2,000 titles to Storytel’s catalogue.

Meanwhile Storytel is taking big strides in India. More on that in a dedicated post shortly.

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