Book trade: The winter of reading is approaching: Escapism in its most beautiful form

Inflation, high heating costs and worries about the future - the book trade wants to set a counterpoint in the realm of fantasy with a wide range of new novels.

Book trade: The winter of reading is approaching: Escapism in its most beautiful form

Inflation, high heating costs and worries about the future - the book trade wants to set a counterpoint in the realm of fantasy with a wide range of new novels. "A good fiction book is escapism in its most beautiful form," said Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, head of the German book trade association - escapism is the need to escape from reality. And non-fiction books are helpful for properly researching current events, Schmidt-Friderichs added in an interview with the German Press Agency.

The hope of a reading winter in Germany is keeping the branch alive, which, like many others, is currently suffering from increasing cost pressure. Last year, bookstores and publishers were able to increase their total sales by 3.5 percent. This year, however, the situation has deteriorated. In the first eight months, the book market in the central sales channels, including online trading, was 1.0 percent below the corresponding result for the previous year, 2.5 percent below the pre-Corona year 2019. Local bookstores alone weakened business fell by 9.5 percent in the first eight months compared to the same period in 2019.

The book trade and publishers are not only having problems with rising energy costs and rents, but also with the noticeable lack of paper. The booming online trade also contributes to this, explains Schmidt-Friderichs: Because the paper manufacturers are serving the increasing demand for packaging and the profit margins in this area are particularly high, the proportion of graphic paper for book printing is decreasing.

"Books should remain affordable"

The leeway to react to this situation with higher prices is small, says the head of the exchange association. "We also have a cultural identity, an educational mission. That's why books should remain affordable."

When the Frankfurt Book Fair begins on October 19, she will be pleased that many politicians also want to visit the fair, said Schmidt-Friderichs. "The industry needs this attention." She sees the danger that the situation of small and medium-sized booksellers and publishers will not be given enough attention in the current difficult situation.

"Zero percent VAT would be the most uncomplicated form of funding," said the industry representative, referring to the already reduced VAT rate for books. "As an industry that is characterized by medium-sized companies, we need targeted relief measures in order to be able to continue to fulfill our important social mission." Without support, some bookstores and publishers are in existential danger.

According to the stock exchange association, the share of e-books in total book sales in Germany rose at times during the corona pandemic, but then fell back to 5.7 percent. "The experience of the pandemic was that people picked up the book, including many teenagers and young adults, that really gave hope," said the Mainz publisher. With a lot of commitment, publishers and bookstores brought books to people even during the pandemic, supported by well-established book logistics.

Industry happy about the book fair almost like 2019

This year, the industry is happy that the book fair can take place almost like it did in 2019. "We had set ourselves the goal of reaching 55 percent of the exhibition area at that time, now we are at 70 percent." Around 4000 exhibitors are expected. "People from 100 countries meet there for peaceful discourse," said Schmidt-Friderichs. China will not be there and the Russian national estate has been excluded. There will be a large area for 42 Ukrainian exhibitors. "The Global South will also have its voice." The "Africa Publishing Innovation Fund" joint stand, which supports the African publishing industry and library projects, will be presented for the first time.

Since the book fair is a mirror of society, political discussions are always an issue at the fair, said Schmidt-Friderichs. "The fair stands for diversity." It lives from the diversity of all those involved and a democratic exchange at eye level in open dialogue.

Respectful cooperation is important to the headmistress. This year, for the first time, there will be an "awareness team for all people who feel discriminated against or excluded at the fair". This is coordinated by the Federation for Anti-Discrimination and Educational Work with a stand in the foyer of Hall 4.0 and contact persons who walk through the fair. People can report incidents there that they experience as discriminatory.

For the reading winter, Schmidt-Friderichs imagines that there could be more reading together - for example by inviting neighbors and friends to read aloud evenings, who could then switch off the heating during this time. "If a society works well, it could also move closer together in such a time."

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