03. 16. 2011. 12:59

Further slump on Hungarian book market

Book market turnover has decreased by more than four per cent since 2009 in Hungary, according to the latest report of the Hungarian Publishers' and Booksellers’ Association (MKKE). The managing director of the largest organization of Hungarian book trade says there is not much hope that the tide will turn in 2011.

In 2009, books were purchased for a total of HUF 64.1 billion (roughly 235.6 million euros) in Hungary, while in 2010, the figure was HUF 61.5 (226 million euros), which is a 4.05 per cent decrease. Managing director Péter László Zentai told Hungarian press agency MTI that the actual decrease in turnover was much more than that, roughly 9 per cent, considering the rate of inflation.

The market slump seems to have become a tendency by now. “If one takes a look at the statistics of the last 15 years, one can see that the boom stopped four or five years ago. In 2006-7 the market increase was close to the rate of inflation”, says Zentai, who blames the economic crisis for the setback. Trade data indicate, he says, that it is the number of customers rather than the amount spent by the individual customers that has decreased.

The greatest setback – 15.26 percent – was suffered by publishers of academic books, lexicons, dictionaries and other publications used in higher education. “There is a dramatic decrease in this field. In the last ten years both the turnover and the number of titles has halved, whereas what we had expected was exactly the opposite”, Zentai said and added that the melting away of state subsidies as well as the increase in the number of illegal copies and downloads were chiefly responsible for the decline.

As for fiction, its position has remained the same within book publishing, although the data show a slight downtrend. The market share of fiction is 20.57 percent, which is rare even in international comparison. The sales figures for fiction were around HUF 12.6 billion (46.3 million euros) last year as compared to HUF 12.8 billion (47 million euros) in 2009.

The market share of audiobooks and CD-ROMs has dwindled, and the digital book market is not considerable.

"Book market actors do not see any auspicious signs for 2011", Zentai said, "except for the so called Márai Programme, which is the only hope, especially for academic book publishers." (The government has earmarked HUF 800 million – 2.9 million euros – for purchasing books from publishers for libraries.) But he added that the concentration of Hungarian book publishers was a sign that they would hopefully be able to adapt to market changes more effectively in the future. There was no significant realignment among publishers and no companies went bankrupt last year. However, some of the publishers have become smaller.

Tags: publishing, book market