Books: Belgian print book sales stable in the second quarter

Print book sales in Flanders grow by 1.5% while in Wallonia revenues were down 2%.

After a decline in the first quarter, the 1.5% growth in the second has helped stabilising Flemish books’ sales in the first half of 2017. This Q2 growth was largely fuelled by surging non-fiction sales, in which the informative segments were the main catalyst, increasing by 15.3% year-on-year. Several subcategories posted substantial increases, among them ‘food and drinks’ (+15%), ‘lifestyle’ (+22.5%), ‘people and society’ (+37.6%) and ‘health’ (+51!).

Adult fiction sales fell by 4.5%, which meant the category has now dropped 20% since its latest peak in 2013, pointing at a continued shift in consumer spending. A bestseller of the calibre of Het Smelt was clearly missing from the second quarter, as Santa Montefiore’s latest novel and top-selling title fell over 10,000 copies behind. Comic books also suffered during this quarter, losing 2.3% despite the successful launch of Fanny K, the first issue of the Kiekeboe spinoff and highest grossing comic in the second quarter.

In addition, the end of the second quarter heralds the end of a liberal book price in Flanders. After a long history of debating over the subject, a regulated book price is in effect since the 1st of July, which leaves a book seller to deviate no more than 10% of the retail price imposed by the publisher, and this for a period of six months. By extension, the Wallonia government is also working on a fixed book price, even tighter regulated than in Flanders, and which will probably be agreed upon in 2018.

For the time being, with a 2% decline, the erosion of Walloon book sales continued as only children’s books had an outstanding quarter, growing by 12%. In all other segments sales decreased, particularly and in stark contradiction to Flanders, in non-fiction, that lost 5% year-on-year.

Conrad Hayen – Senior Market Analyst Entertainment