The strong dollar and weakness in the Asian market contributed to another tough period for American book exports. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, exports fell nearly 9% for the third quarter ended September 30, to $523 million. The poor third quarter, combined with flat six-month export sales, resulted in a 3.6% decline in book exports to $1.36 billion for the first three quarters of 1998.

The growth in book imports also slowed in the quarter, increasing 4.8% to $388 million; for the first nine months of the year, imports were up 8.1% to $1.03 billion.

With the exception of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, exports to America's 15 largest book trading partners fell in the first nine months of the year. The biggest declines were in shipments to Korea (down 46%), the Philippines (42%), Singapore (28%) and Taiwan and Brazil (24% each). Book exports to America's two largest markets, Canada and the U.K., fell 2.4% and 7.7%, respectively.

Australia remained America's most vibrant market in 1998, with year-to-date gains up 24.3% to $118.1 million. Exports to New Zealand increased 15% to $15.6 million, while exports to Japan rose 13.5% to $102 million (although they fell 7% to Japan in the third quarter.)