That Lucinda Riley in 2020 in the Netherlands 277,000 copies of Sun sold – the most bought book of this corona year – is not in itself a surprise. That of the ten best-selling books, six are to her name is. This is probably related to the increased share of online sales, where popular titles appear more quickly on the shop window. In the physical bookshop, the bookseller sometimes also wants to point out something else.
Last Thursday, the Collective Propaganda of the Dutch Book Foundation (CPNB) announced the sales figures in the Dutch book trade, plus the top 100 most lent books. In the latter category Most people are good at the top, by Rutger Bregman). Book sales increased last year, online and offline; 41 million books were bought, with a value of 597 million euros. That is 6 percent more than in 2019. This increase is largely attributable to online sales; it increased by 27 percent. The CPNB cannot provide absolute figures here. As a result of the corona measures – store closure, keeping a distance – the physical bookstore suffered a lot.
There was also a shift in genres. Besides fiction – Lucinda Riley – children’s books also sold well. There are two in the top 10: The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse from Charlie Mackesy and Alphabet from Charlotte Dematons. That was at the expense of non-fiction.
“Maybe it is because of Lucinda Riley that everything has increased,” says CPNB director Eveline Aendekerk. She herself read, she says via video calling, the first of seven parts of the series The Seven Sisters. It works well, she thinks. “It’s great that those fat pills, almost six hundred pages, are read by so many people. When it comes to reading pleasure… who says people don’t read bulky books anymore? Here is proof to the contrary. It is absolutely no shoddy work, there is really a lot of research and history. You can of course disagree about the style. ”
That the first literary fiction book – Marieke Lucas Rijneveld with The evening is inconvenience – is in eleventh place is also striking. This is a – except for Rijneveld – not very positive achievement: in the past ten years it has not happened that no Dutch literary novel was in the top 10 of best-selling books. Over the past five years, Dutch literature has always been in the top 5.
One explanation is that fewer literary novels were published last year, but the advice and overview of the physical bookshop was also lacking. For example, it gives ‘novices a chance’ and ensures that not only ‘the bestsellers are pushed further’, according to Aendekerk, which happens almost automatically online.
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The latest lockdown was another blow: over the past few weeks, bookstores have reported a decline in turnover of no less than 90 percent compared to a year ago. This is evident from figures from the Royal Booksellers Association. KBb director Anne Schroën: “I still take into account that one in three bookstores will not make it. Publishers and authors will also notice the consequences of the lockdown, books are already being returned. ”
Schroën is convinced that the disappearance of bookstores will have an impact on the shopping streets. “If a bookstore disappears, it doesn’t mean another one will show up elsewhere. No, it has disappeared forever. ”
The CPNB campaign ‘Support your bookshop’ is not only intended to save the bookshop. With the disappearance of physical bookstores, there is also a threat of an impoverished supply of literature. The call seems to have some effect, it turned out this week. But, says Aendekerk: “The doubling of a little is still little.”
In its promotional work for the Dutch book, and against reading, the CPNB foundation makes less distinction between genres than in the past, when ‘the literary book’ had an advantage. Based on last year’s sales increase, it seems at least successful in getting people to read more. But literature lovers who see twelve Dutch literary novels in the top 100 against fourteen titles by Riley would like to see more protection for their vulnerable genre. Aendekerk cites this as the reason that for the coming Book Week, in March, the focus has been on literary authors. “And the ‘Support your bookstore’ campaign is also related to this.”
The CPNB is all about behavioral change, she explains: that you know where you buy and that you understand the value of reading. Aendekerk does not see much in the idea that the CPNB focuses on ‘what is really vulnerable’: “This top 100 shows that it has been a totally bizarre year. We really need to realize that, and also that Lucinda Riley is a phenomenon. Her books have a huge impact on the list. For a number of authors that is very disappointing, because they no longer come to the surface in that top 10. But for sales and reading it is good, there are really two sides to it. It is also good that we are all concerned about the role of the physical stores. It helps in that awareness. ”
The choice for a campaign that also has something of a cry for help and not just the ‘happy CPNB tone’, is conscious. Aendekerk: “Supporting your bookshop is still positive, that’s how it works when people change behavior. If the message is ‘no one is reading’, you consciously or unconsciously think that you don’t need to read either. That’s how it seems to work in the human brain. We really looked for an idea of support, and also want to show the emotion of the sympathetic and necessary bookseller. ”
At the same time, Aendekerk certainly wants to avoid an association with development aid: “That’s why we didn’t say ‘Save the bookstores’ or anything like that. They are not pathetic seals that we have to save, but just entrepreneurs who deserve our support. If it’s ever needed, it is now. ”
CPNB director: this book top 100 shows that it has been a totally bizarre year
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