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France's publishers see 2% sales fall

French book publishers' turnover fell by 2.1% to €2,771bn after inflation between 2011 and 2012, but the sector held up better than other cultural products.

The annual report of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l'Edition, SNE) said that sales of books, which represent 95.2% of turnover, declined by a real 2.1% to €2,639m and to 441 million copies, and rights sales slipped by 1.6% to €133m. Of 670 SNE members, 252 replied to the latest survey, down from 261 in 2011 and 305 in 2010.

Figures published in February by market research consultants GfK showed that book sales fell by 1.7% in 2010, against 5.1% for video products, 8.6% for music and 9.1% for interactive leisure items.

The number of titles produced last year rose by 6.2% to 86,295, of which 51.8% were new. But average print runs fell, which is "a sign of caution in managing inventories", the SNE said. Sales of paperbacks added 1.4% to €352m and 109 million copies.

Electronic books accounted for 3% of publishers' turnover or 2.4% if e-books on CDs or and USB keys were excluded. But 70% went to professionals, which means that online sales of e-books to the general public still stood at only 0.9%. Royalties paid to authors rose by 2.4% in 2012 year-on-year, or 9.6% of the publishing sector's turnover.

Sales of social science, humanities, young adult and comic books rose, while those of general literature, which normally represent 25% of the total, were stable. Overall, fiction fared better than non-fiction.

In his closing speech to the SNE's AGM today, president Vincent Montagne, who is also CEO of Media Participations, noted that the European Commission and a majority of the 27 European Union member states are in favour of a single VAT rate on books, whatever the format. There has to be unanimity for an EU tax change to go ahead.