Curriculum change helped French publishers to 4% uplift in 2016

Curriculum change helped French publishers to 4% uplift in 2016

Publishers’ sales rose by 4.25% to €2.8bn in 2016 (€2.7bn in 2015), with volume sales rising 4.11% to 434.5 million (from 417.3 million), according to statistics released by the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l’Edition, SNE). 

However the figures reflect the boost from a major school curriculum reform, and without it the increases would have been a more modest 0.11% and 2.5%, respectively. 

Revenue from paperbacks rose by a robust 5% above inflation, while those of e-books came to €234m, accounting for 8.65% of the total. Royalty payments rose from €449m in 2015 to €468m in 2016.

The figures were released at the SNE a.g.m. (29th June), at which SNE president Vincent Montagne called publicly for the first time for the long-mooted French book tracking system to be put in place, because of its helpfulness in tough times. “The economic equation is increasingly difficult,” he told The Bookseller. “Sales are stable, but the number of titles published and royalty payments are rising, and books’ shelf life is shortening. This means that everyone’s margins are shrinking.”  But he added that negotiations for such a system would be complicated and declined to suggest a target launch date.

New French culture minister Francoise Nyssen, former c.e.o. of publisher Actes Sud, addressed the SNE a.g.m. as one of five engagements that day, and expressed her support for the tracking system, according to Montagne. 

Nyssen hit the ground running when she was appointed to the new government on May 17th.  In the book sector alone, she has addressed a French Librarians Association (Association des Bibliothécaires Françaises) conference held in Paris, a biennial French Booksellers Association (Syndicat de la Librairie Française) conference in La Rochelle, as well as the SNE event. She has also hosted the signature of a Book Price Charter that aims to ensure sales of secondhand books comply with the 1981 Lang law on fixed pricing for new books.

Following the SNE assembly, she oversaw the signing of a new non-binding agreement between the SNE and the umbrella authors organization Permanent Conference of Writers (Conférence Permanent d’Ecrivains) which calls for contracts to detail cash provisions for returns and a halt to royalties being shifted between authors’ titles published by the same house if sales do not match up to advances.

Meanwhile the booksellers’ meeting in La Rochelle showed a change of mood since the first biennial event in Lyon in 2011, according to SLF president Matthieu de Montchalin, owner of L’Armitière bookshop in Rouen. Anger and resentment have disappeared with a change of generation, and instead, new young booksellers are looking to the future and and seeking collective solutions, realizing that independence does not necessarily means isolation, de Montchalin told The Bookseller. 

A record 800 delegates, including 550 booksellers, attended the event, which covered general issues such as town centres and including 40 workshops on specific and often technical topics. The new 15-minute speed-dating between publishers’ sales/distribution teams and booksellers were a resounding success, with a total of 250 sessions taking place, he added.