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Friday 19.01.2018 | Name days: Alnis, Andulis

Jumava: book industry’s contribution forms 100 million lats yearly

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU, Juris Visockis

Juris Visockis

Book publishing effect on education, information, language improvement and design can be assessed at the extent of 100 million lats a year, the Head of the publishing house Jumava Juris Visockis indicates in an interview to the business news portal BNN.

He also acknowledges book publishing industry is alive, because five books are published in Latvia daily. The publisher also hopes to return to the annual turnover of one million lats, which the company managed to achieve before the crisis in 2008.

What has the publisher Jumava achieved during its 20 years of existence?

These have been years of rivalry with the fact the book market conditions become more and more difficult, however, we became wiser as well. Every year it seemed the next one will be calmer and better. But – nothing; even new challenges emerged. Starting with the VAT rise saga, which was a huge mistake of Ivars Godmanis government. We are thankful to Valdis Dombrovskis government for keeping the reduced rate of 12% on books. The VAT increase is not good, but at least now there are opportunities and base for work. Currently, we publish 120 to 150 book titles a year, of which about half is original literature. Hopefully, we will return to an annual turnover of one million lats that we had already attained before the crisis in 2008. The money I turn now will cover loan payments and the next book printing cycle. At the moment, we are improving book sales and distribution infrastructure.

How large is your chain of bookshops?

There are now ten bookstores. This is not really the entire scale of chains; however, we are ready to expand cooperation with L.Grāmata, Jāņa Rozes grāmatnīca or Valters un Rapa, if it is necessary and someone starts the negotiations. The good news is the bookshop sales have stabilized and exited the red numbers.

What type of support do you await from the state and the Culture Ministry?

We are a part of the creative industry such as theater, cinema and others, so book publishing is both business and lifestyle. We should be subsidized by the state, because we give a great value added to Latvia. Book publishing contribution in education, information, language improvement, design etc. could be estimated at 100 million lats per year. Yet, at the time of Godmanis mandate, the state attempted to collect three, six or even seven million lats, but it failed. This shook the industry significantly – everything fell by 50%. The only improving factor is that Latvians have long been a nation of book-lovers with the largest home libraries in the world. Andris Vilks, the Director of the Latvian National Library, told me this. We have a completely open book market, for instance, translated works comprise only 5% of the US book market. Latvia could learn from Norway, where publishers have it more easier, because 1 000 to 2 000 copies are immediately placed on public procurement for national libraries. During the fat years we published around 2500 titles yearly; however, Estonia is ahead of us with 4 000 book titles a year. Now we have about 2 000 books a year. Only about 200 copies go to library funds in Latvia.

We will never achieve the level of Norway’s prosperity. We have to ensure that the procurement does not slip to zero. There was a ridiculous situation right before the elections, when we met with the Finance Minister and mentioned that the state currently supports book procurement with 3 000 lats per year. The Finance Minister wanted me to go over the same statement three times, making sure whether I had meant 300 000 or 30 000 lats. He thought we had forgotten to add some zeros … and he sounded deeply infuriated. However, this sum has not been increased yet.

How are you affected by Zvaigzne ABC’s outlets?

It does and does not affect us, depending on how you look at it. Although Latvia is not a large country, each day five new books are published. This means that the sector is alive. During the 90s, Russian authors were glad that their books were very cheap. However, recently their prices are rising as well. Market segmentation and individualization is taking place; therefore, majority of consumers focus on the quality, the book’s aesthetic enjoyment, not its price. I have tried some discount campaigns, yet they not always pay off. The chain will extend, because soon mass digitization of books will occur, as well as a shift to online marketing exclusively. Publishers’ role will decrease.

What is the average number of print runs?

If five or seven years ago the average novel print run amounted to 3 000 copies, two years ago it was only 2 000 copies. Now print runs have dropped to 1 500 copies. Estonia prints 1 000 copies, this is what awaits us. It is not a tragedy, because publishers and printing houses have already adapted to it. This, of course, slightly surcharges the prime cost of a single copy. Publishers earn with cyclical books. Unfortunately, Latvian authors do not write bestsellers – about what is important for the Latvian people. Thanks to the publisher Atēna that first lifted prices of good, thick books above 10 lats. For ten years we did not manage to enter the market with cheaper polygraphic solutions and soft covers; but, now consumers have become more economical and accept it. Secondary school students and university students come to stores with new buying habits.

How many days do bookstores need to settle payments on the sold books?

It depends. Starting from 30 days. Everything is delayed, including our payments to authors. Of course, not to the extent of dramatic years – 2008, 2009 and 2010. There is a current account deficit. So, we understand shopkeepers having difficulties in settling payments with us.

The first round of the game Grand Prix, which you organized together with Reader’s Digest, has just concluded. What are the summarized results?

Indeed, last year the game Grand Prix was launched here from Lithuania. As a book publisher, I see great opportunity in this book distribution chain, because they have their own database. What they have verified in Lithuania over the five years is that their game players generally do not visit bookshops. This means that we are addressing other audience – stay-at-homes, the disabled, people with other traditions, also the Russian-speaking population. The total prize pool was over 30 000 lats, because the winner got 24 000 lats, replying within seven days. Other winner won a car worth 10 000 lats. This gave visibility to the publishing house Jumava. In future, I wish to distribute Jumava’s books in this chain. So far, they sold translated Reader’s Digest editions. Currently, their earnings are not large, as they are only increasing the customers’ base and market potential.

What do you think of the State Cultural Capital Foundation’s (SCCF) activities?

It is true that the SCCF is granting almost no funding for new books. Its budget has shrunken more than during the first years of its establishment. Over the 20 years, we have received valuable support from the SCCF and are operating due to many benefactors, local governments, embassies and the EU institutions. Rather than seeking sponsors, or beg for assistance of the SCCF, writers will have to start targeting foreign markets. Authors writing novels in the evenings or at nights after their main job, cannot make a living on that exlusively. So a support system for writers has to be created. Where are literature works describing Latvia’s economic crisis turmoils? This was requested at London and Frankfurt international book fairs. They are willing to conclude agreements.


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