The Book Market
In 2010 the total number of published titles of printed books went down for the second consecutive year (this time by approximately 4%). In total 17,054 were published (see table I). This represents an absolute decrease of around 550 titles compared to 2009. To what extent this was part of a fall in the total volume of sales of books, or whether it was even more pronounced, can only be surmised due to the persistent lack of credible data. In such a case there is generally a greater decline in sales in the regions than in the capital city of Prague.
On the other hand, there was a record growth in the number of translations published (see table II). In absolute terms that means 6,044 titles and a growth of almost 5% in comparison with 2009, when a total of 5,777 translated literary titles were published. In 2010 translations also accounted for more than a third of the total book production of the Czech Republic.
2010 was also notable for the rapid emergence of e-books in the Czech book sphere. This confirmed prognoses of an expected development which should have a more tangible effect on the Czech book market in 2011 in particular. This is mainly related to the forthcoming entry of the biggest player in the Czech Republic’s book market, the Euromedia Group company, into this segment of book production and sales.
However, in the second half of the year and the start of 2011 the greatest stir was caused by the government’s forthcoming tax reform, which provides for the unification of the rate of value added tax. This is supposed to come into effect in 2012 and as far as books are concerned it would lead not only to a general rise in the cost of book production but also to a threat to the publication of certain types of literature. On a global scale it would also mean an increase in this rate for books of unprecedented sharpness in a very short space of time.
The production of printed books
In 2010 a total of 1,925 publishers contributed to Czech book production, with each of them bringing at least one title onto the market. From this perspective, publishers from the Czech capital city once again played an important role; a total of 688 entities, i.e. 36% of them, were located in Prague and they had a share of almost 27% in the total book production of the Czech Republic (a total of 4,519 published titles). In 2010 new releases represented almost 88% of the total production of publishing entities in the Czech Republic; in absolute terms this represents 14,992 titles from the total number of 17,054. In comparison with some other EU countries, book publishing in the Czech Republic is still markedly divided up among a large number of publishers.
The activities of Czech publishers were comparable with the previous year, when 1,913 publishing entities participated in annual book production. However, in all probability the actual number of publishers will be several hundred more, because 2,461 titles were also published which were not identified with an ISBN number and so had to be allocated an alternative identification number in the National Library of the Czech Republic. This means that more than 14% of published book titles were lacking this identifier!
A total of 21 private publishing entities (see table III) plus 11 publishers linked to universities and state institutions (see table IV) prepared more than a hundred new titles for the book market. Approximately a further thirty private publishers can also be regarded as large-scale: they reported production ranging from 50 to almost 100 published titles. In comparison with the previous year these indicators remain essentially unchanged. With respect to its number of inhabitants the Czech Republic thus maintains a position among the top countries exhibiting a large production of books.
With few exceptions, the tables of the largest publishers according to the number of titles published give evidence of mass book production and the production of bestsellers. In addition to this, of course, in the Czech Republic there is also a relatively powerful and important group of publishers (approx. 5-20 titles published per year) with a clearly defined editorial profile and specialisation, which concentrate on the publishing of worthy domestic and translated literature for minority readerships and bibliophiles or literature for children. They include, e.g., Arbor vitae, Atlantis, Aulos, Baobab, Dauphin, Labyrint, Meander, Literární čajovna Suzanne Renaud, Opus, Torst, Vetus via, etc. These complete the overall picture of the publishing sector and form an indispensable part of it.
The costs of book production for university and college publishers and the publishing divisions of central government authorities, which is tailored to the needs of the schools and their students and also state institutions and experts and specialists, are naturally not comparable with the costs of private publishers. In reality only around a half of the books produced will make it onto booksellers’ shelves (the other half is made up of off-market and so-called grey literature, consisting of various publications by state authorities, statistics and methodological manuals and other specialist publications).
In the period up to 31.12.2010, 4,875 book publishers were registered in the Czech Republic; according to international methodology these include both active publishing houses and those which are defunct or entities which are not actively engaged in publishing activities. However, this figure is a reliable indicator of the volume of publishing activities in the Czech Republic since November 1989. At an estimate about half of the registered publishing entities are active. In 2010 approximately 100 publishers of non-periodical publications ceased their activities and 292 publishing entities were newly registered.
The structure of Czech book production
Books in the Czech language once again predominated in 2010, forming almost 87% of the book production of Czech publishing entities. A further 1,084 titles were brought out in Czech with a share of another language. Last year Czech publishers prepared a total of 198 multilingual publications for release. The foreign-language book production of the Czech publishing houses was once again strongly dominated by English, ahead of Slovak and some way ahead of German. The proportion of non-periodical publications which came out in English in the Czech Republic in 2010 represented almost 4% of total book production. Overall in the period under observation books were published in the Czech Republic in a further 20 languages (e.g. 7 titles in Korean, 4 in Hungarian, 3 in Arabic and 2 in Persian). The proportion of fiction within the total book production of the Czech Republic increased again last year in comparison with the previous two years, to more than 26%. The proportion of the volume of children’s literature remained basically at the level of 2008–2009. This represents a total of 1,336 published titles of children’s literature and a 7.8% share in the year’s total book production. The proportion of school and university textbooks published within the total book production of the Czech Republic increased in 2010 to 9% (see table V). Specific figures for the last five years on the types of book production commented on above are set out in table V.
In 2010 the proportion of translations in the overall volume of Czech book production exceeded a third, i.e. it formed a 35.4% share. There was an increase of almost 5% in the number of titles published compared to 2009 (see table I). The Czech Republic thus continues to be one of the leading countries in the world where translations form one of the largest shares of total book production. This has a certain logic, because the Czech language is not a world language, and so through the published translations we open our doors to the cultures of other languages, be they more numerous or those which have given rise to works of literature which are exceptional or worthy of recognition. In 2010 Czech publishers offered their readers translations from a total of 42 languages (the year before last, 39), including some very rarely frequented languages, such as Bengali, Icelandic, Persian or Coptic. The trio of languages from which the most translations are made in the Czech Republic has remained unchanged since 1990. Again it was clearly dominated by English, which accounted for more than half of all published translations (almost 51%). German, followed by French, maintained their positions over the last year, some way ahead of the other languages from which the most translations are made. 2010 also saw a rise in the number of translations from Italian and especially from Polish. In the case of Polish, this was by almost half, placing it among the six most translated languages in the CR. Conversely, there was a similarly large decrease in translations from Spanish. In last year’s Czech book production there was again a relatively strong representation of literary works translated from Dutch 45 (2009: 20) and from Scandinavian languages: Swedish 32 (28), Norwegian 11 (12) and Finnish 9 (10). Dutch became the ninth most translated language in this country and Swedish concludes the top ten. Twelve titles were also translated from Hungarian (in 2009: 15) and from Portuguese (2009: 13). In 2010 the rank of the most translated Slavonic language in the Czech Republic was again held by Slovak. Russian basically retained its position, and together with Slovak and Polish it formed the trio of Slavonic languages from which the most translations are made in the Czech Republic. In the long term a disproportionately low number of translations were made from other Slavonic languages. The number of translations published in recent years was more or less constant – only around 20 titles came out. In 2009, however, their number grew to 35 and this trend also continued last year. A total of 36 translations from other Slavonic languages were published: 9 from Serbian, 8 from Ukrainian, 7 from Croatian, 6 from Slovenian, 3 from Bulgarian and 3 from Sorbian.
The rise of e-books
In the history of book culture in the Czech Republic and abroad, 2010 and the beginning of the following year were marked by the sudden emergence of e-books. This is confirmed by the sporadically emerging data. It manifested itself not only in the number of specialist events which took place under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the DILIA agency, Svaz českých knihkupců a nakladatelů (SČKN) and libraries, but also within the Reklama-Polygraf trade fair devoted to the media; indeed, one of the main themes of the 17th annual international book fair and literary festival Book World Prague (12.–15. 5. 2011) was the World of E-Books. These specialist events focused mainly on the issues of technical equipment, access control software (DRM), the economics of e-book production, the pricing of e-books, their availability, the allocation of ISBN numbers and especially on the protection of copyright in connection with piracy in this area. One question which remains open is that of the legislative treatment of the lending of e-books in libraries, because in the relatively small Czech book market there is a real threat of the liquidation of a number of publishing houses.
The sales of reading equipment by the companies Acomp and Alza, especially in the second half of 2010, as well as the number of readers individually imported and ordered abroad testified to unprecedented interest from customers. It is estimated that around 50,000 of them are currently in operation (however, figures of as many as 100,000 pieces of operating equipment have appeared in the press). Some bookshops have also started selling readers. For example, the Barvič a Novotný bookshop in Brno immediately offered seven types in various price brackets. Libraries are also catering to the growing interest among their users. Readers and e-books can already be borrowed in Prague, Brno, Hradec Králové, Vsetín, Jablonec... And the number of these sites is continually rising. However, at present the works offered by libraries are limited to those which are no longer subject to copyright protection (i.e. the Čapek brothers, B. Němcová, K. H. Mácha, Sherlock Holmes detective stories, etc.). The National Library of the Czech Republic is currently engaged in the research task of the National Digital Library, where the Czech production of electronic documents is to be concentrated.
An increasing number of publishers are, either alone or in cooperation with legal literary portals, publishing e-books or issuing them concurrently with a printed version (e.g. Portál, JOTA, Druhé město, Talpress, Host, Baronet, Fragment, Knižní klub and others). The media concern Ringier CR abandoned its project of trading in e-books, www.gutenberg.cz. All the indications are that there has been a certain awakening of publishers, mainly under the influence of illegal portals which are currently showing an unprecedented increase in the number of e-book titles offered (in the order of thousands of titles) and downloaded (in the order of hundreds of thousands), as well as registered readers. It should be noted that the offer of titles from illegal portals, which until recently was to a large extent only a digitalised version of printed book production, increasingly displays the parameters of professionally prepared e-books.
In 2010 the activities of Czech book portals also gathered pace (e.g. www.palmknihy.cz, www.ereading.cz, www.wknihy.cz, www.bookz.cz, etc.). However, the range of titles they offer is generally in the order of hundreds and sales in the order of dozens. One breakthrough event appears to be the entry of the Czech Republic’s largest book publisher, the Euromedia Group, into this segment of the book market. The company announced the commencement of sales of e-books in the Czech Republic on 1. 4. 2011 on the portal www.ebux.cz. Its initial offer comprises 800 titles from the production of around 40 publishers who have entered into cooperation with Euromedia Group. In collaboration with the firm Wooky a reader will also be launched on the market. Following the example of Amazon.com, however, this format will accept only e-books from the portal www.ebux.cz, which, given the strength of the Euromedia Group and the small Czech market for e-books to date, is raising fears of a monopoly and an understandable degree of indignation from the competition.
One fundamental problem appears to be the issue of the pricing of e-books and the share of e-books sold between publishers and authors, or the copyright holders. At the DILIA conference devoted to e-books which took place in Prague in October 2010, participants agreed that the acceptable price level for one e-book title appears to be around 100 CZK, in order to make sure it doesn’t pay for internet enthusiasts to think up ways to get the desired title illegally. However, with reference to the cost of preparing e-books, Czech publishers have so far been inclined towards higher prices, in the amount of 50–70% of the price of the published book.
Threat of a record increase in VAT on books
The planned tax reform would place the Czech Republic among the countries where the highest rate of VAT on books applies (viz Denmark – 25%, Albania, Bulgaria and Ukraine – 20%). At the same time the country would surely set a record for the fastest increase in this tax in the world. Up until 31. 12. 2007, as in a number of other countries with a developed book market, the rate was still reduced, amounting to 5%, but from 2008 it went up to 9%, and in 2010 to the current 10%. It should be noted that this rise in VAT did not bring about a significant increase in the price of books in the CR.
However, the announced increase in VAT on books to 19–20% from 2012 caused a considerable outcry among the cultured public. The biggest response was obtained by the Výzva na obranu knih [Call for the Defence of Books] which was proclaimed by the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers (SČKN). Over time it was signed by around 150,000 signatories (as of 3. 5. 2011 the publishers’ professional organisation had registered 42,707 people on signature sheets and 107,037 on the internet). The government eventually agreed to a two-stage increase in VAT; to 14% from 2012 and 17.5% from 2013. Following talks with publishers’ representatives in the Czech Parliament, some signals suggest that there is still a possibility of books remaining at the lower rate.
Publishers put forward a number of compelling arguments to show how a sudden increase in VAT would cause a fatal decline in book production, lowering sales, and threaten the existence of a number of publishers, non-periodical publications and also the publication of certain kinds of literature, especially textbooks and specialist literature. If we ignore the fact that e-books, which in the Czech Republic as in most EU countries are not subject to a reduced rate of VAT, have not provoked any discussion and this is accepted as a given fact, then in the case of traditional printed books the reasoning of the economic indicators runs up against a fundamental limitation. This is due to the secrecy which has so far surrounded economic indicators related to the production and sale of books. Furthermore it is always difficult to point to which financial losses will be suffered by publishers and whether or not the support currently received from the state is sufficient.
A realistic look at the year 2010 in terms of the production, sale and reading of books in the Czech Republic was also influenced by the results of the second representative survey of the Czech adult population on the subject of reading (a survey which was carried out in June 2010 by the National Library of the Czech Republic and the Institute for Czech Literature of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (AS CR) with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic) and the results of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey published by the Institute for Information on Education. These produced alarming facts which had already manifested themselves in other developed European countries but which we hitherto, perhaps mistakenly, imagined had not affected the Czech Republic to such an extent.
The first of the surveys in comparison with the previous survey from 2007 confirmed a further decline in interest in reading; there was a reduction in the number of books purchased and the volume of financial resources invested in their purchase. On the other hand, respondents reported an increase in the number of books read per year and also a rise in the average number of minutes spent on the internet each day. This could also indicate a turning point in the perception of literary and specialist texts. People have obviously not stopped reading in this country, but texts from the internet and e-books are taking up an increasing share of their reading. The results of the PISA study in comparison with 2000, when the international research into readers’ literacy was first conducted, testified to a deterioration in the level of reading literacy among Czech children, pupils in the final years of basic school and the first years of high school. The Czech Republic was ranked in a group of nine countries whose pupils are less accustomed to critically assessing and evaluating what they read. In the CR this shortcoming was more pronounced among boys than girls.
These should act as timely warning bells for all interested institutions, including libraries, schools, cultural facilities and government institutions, not only to continue unabated their existing efforts to cultivate a positive relationship with books and reading among children and young people in particular but also, following models from abroad, to finally launch a systematically conceived campaign supported by the government, regions and municipalities to promote books and reading.
The Labyrint Almanac is a database of Czech publishers and its production, furthermore it offers information about booksellers, distribution companies, agencies, libraries, etc.; every year a new edition of the Almanac is published.
Database of Publishers in the Czech Republic is a database run by the National Library.
Secondhand bookshops −´an overview of secondhand bookshops in the Czech Republic.