Book sales continue to drop

Book sales in Iceland continued to drop last year, when they went down by 5 percent. That trend, which began in 2008, continues this year. Sales figures for the first four months of the year, published by the Association of Icelandic Publishers and based on information from Statistics Iceland, show a five percent drop in sales from the same period last year.

“The alarming profile we published a year ago has gotten quite a bit worse,” Egill Örn Jóhannsson, CEO of Forlagið publishing company tells Morgunblaðið. “It underscores the importance of the authorities keeping their promise and removing the value-added tax [on books] at the end of the year, as has been discussed and proposed in the [government] budget.” Value-added tax on books in Iceland is 11 percent.

Book sales have plummeted in recent years, dropping by 11 percent in 2016 alone, and by 36 percent from 2008 till 2017. The number of new book titles did not go down considerably during this time. Therefore, it is clear that fewer copies of each book are sold every year.

When asked for the reasons for the drop in sales, Egill mentions increased competition for people’s time. “Traditional recreation, such as the reading of books, has faced a tough competition from the latest technology.”

Is the price of books too high? “No,” he replies, “the price of books has mostly been stable in recent years, so I do not at all think you can point to pricing as a problem. But of course the reduction in price, which would result from the removal of value-added tax, would be a major boon.”

Egill believes publishing has become an extremely tough business to be in in Iceland, but he is hopeful that removing the value-added tax on books will be helpful. “I do, however, believe, that more steps must be taken to turn around this unfortunate trend.”

What makes him optimistic is seeing how well children’s and young adult’s books have sold in recent semesters. “You can’t deny being optimistic about the future when the youngest generation appears, if anything, to be showing more interest in reading. That’s promising,” Egill concludes.


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