The French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l’Edition, SNE) released the results of a survey of more than 130 publishers and conglomerates taken earlier this month that assesses the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Half the publishers said they expected to lose between 20% and 40% of revenue this year, with a quarter expecting to lose more than 40% of revenue. Across the board, publishers said they would cancel an average of 18% of new titles scheduled for the remainder of 2020.
Bookstores closed in France on March 14 and while they have begun to reopen, publishers are not anticipating that customers will return in large numbers. The country offers significant government support to bookstores, which has helped grow the number of independent outlets to more than 3,000 throughout the country. This, together with fixed book price laws and further legislation to curb the influence of Amazon, means shoppers have had far less incentive to shop online in France and the channel has lagged behind in market share than in other European countries.
Earlier this year, when the lockdown was announced, both Hachette and Editis said they would suspend publishing new titles, as well as delay invoices due from bookshops. The period of lockdown saw a small rise in e-book and audiobook sales in France, both of which remain relatively modest compared to the United States, but this was not nearly enough to offset the lost bookstore sales.
Nearly 60% of publishers said the lost sales are likely to cause the companies "financial distress" and 18 respondents to the survey said they feared going out of business as a result of the pandemic. The French Ministry of Culture has offered support for the industry in the form of payroll grants and other subsidies which are expected to total 180 million euros and 75% of publishers have requested assistance. Nearly half of the publishers surveyed are considered small businesses, with annual revenue of less than half a million euros or less and fewer than five employees.