Paper shortage threatens recent book sector growth in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
book sector

In ten years, the book sector in Spain had not grown as much as in the past year and a half. Book sales increased during this period by 17% – 23%. However, external factors threaten to put an end to this trend.

The book sector accounts for 0.8% of Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs nearly 50,000 people. In the pandemic year 2020, no fewer than 74,589 book titles were published. The number of readers in Spain increased last year; 57% of Spaniards indicated that they read a book at least once a week. 

Now that virtually all economic activities have resumed, the question is whether people will continue to read. In addition, the sector is currently facing a number of external threats. Firstly, the scarcity of paper and the resulting price increase. And secondly, the ever-growing threatening power of e-commerce giant Amazon. Between 20% and 24% of book sales in Spain now go through Amazon. This is a major threat to bookstores, as only 38% of independent bookstores in Spain also have an online sales channel. 

Paper industry gives priority to packaging board 

The exponential growth of online commerce, paradoxically also benefited the book industry during the pandemic. However, it has led the paper industry to prioritise the production of cardboard packaging at the expense of paper production. In addition, during the pandemic, timber management in Canadian and Norwegian forests, the largest raw material suppliers to the paper industry, came to a standstill. As a result, only 3% of paper pulp goes to book production and the price of paper in Spain has increased by 30%. 

Books more expensive 

According to publishers in Spain, printers have also increased their prices as a result of the sky-high energy price. This would equate to an increase of almost 20%. Therefore, all these factors together will inevitably affect the final selling price of a book in 2022. 

Despite the fact that most books sold in Spain are translations, the 2021 bestseller list is led by Spanish writers. At number 1 is ‘Sira’ by María Dueñas, of which 302,000 copies have now been sold. At number 2 is ‘El humor de mi vida’ by Paz Padilla (210,000 copies sold). And at number 3 ‘El juego de Alma’ by Javier Castillo (122,000 copies sold). 

Surprising winner Premio Planeta 

Behind the pseudonym Carmen Mola, winner of the prestigious literary Premio Planeta 2021, was not, as expected. Instead of a female in her forties, as expected, it is a male writer’s trio. When it became known that their book ‘La bestia’ had won the Premio Planeta, the three authors, José Díaz, Antonio Mercero and Agustín Martínez, decided to reveal their identities. Together they earned €1 million by winning the prize. 

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