French publishing sales were up in 2016, rising 4.25% to €2.8bn ($3.17 billion), according to figures from the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l’Edition, SNE), as reported by The Bookseller. The rise is the result of a change in national school curriculum, which prompted more purchases by schools and boosted unit sales by 4.11%, from 417.3 million in 2015 to 434.5 million in 2016.
The figures were released at the Association's annual membership meeting on June 29, where the association also noted that e-book sales hit €234 million ($265 million) in 2016 and represented 8.65% of the overall market. Rights sales accounted for €132m ($160 million), or 5%, of publishers’ net revenues last year.
Reflecting on the figures, SNE president Vincent Montagne told The Bookseller, “The economic equation is increasingly difficult. 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.”
Among the concerns of publishers has been the erosion of the traditional book market by online retailers, some of whom have been accused of selling new books at a discount by labelling them as used or second-hand titles, thus skirting France's fixed book price law. Earlier in the week, French culture minister Francoise Nyssen, oversaw the signing of a new "book price charter" which will further regulate book sales and enforce the fixed book price law. The signatories of the charter include The National Union of Publishers, the French Booksellers Association and the Union for the Distribution of Culture, as well as several major online book retailers in France, such as Amazon, Cdiscount, FNAC, Leslibraires.fr, PriceMinister, Chapitre.com and Palidis.
Last week, Nyssen also addressed the annual meeting of the French Booksellers Association (Le Syndicat de la Librairie française). Held in La Rochelle, the event attracted some 800 attendees, including 550 booksellers. There, Nyssen praised the role of booksellers in fostering culture and said the government is thinking about instituting a program to give each French citizen turning 18 a sum of €500 to spend on "cultural goods," including books, theater or symphony tickets, as was launched in Italy last year.
Research firm GfK took the occasion of the meeting to release a report based on a survey of 15,000 readers. The report compared the book market between the years 2007-2016. The firm noted that while the French market for "cultural goods," which includes books, film and music, has been in decline, physical books remain the country's top cultural product and now represent 57% of the market value for cultural goods, up from 51% in 2007. The study also indicated that the French now devote an average of three hours per week to leisure reading, which trails behind time spent streaming music or videos.