Masterful, but ephemeral. French publishing performed like a charm in 2021, according to statistics published on Thursday, June 30, by the Syndicat national de l’édition (SNE): the sector’s turnover jumped by 12.4% to 3.07 billion euros compared to 2020 and also remains up by 9.7% compared to 2019. The recognition of bookstores as true essential businesses during the pandemic combined with a draconian restriction of other cultural offers has worked wonders .

The SNE underlines how much this performance was driven “by the very good health of comics (55.9%) and in particular manga, which benefited from a powerful breath of fresh air with the Culture Pass”. This improvement irrigated the other categories such as general literature (4.9%), human and social sciences (4.5%), but even more practical books (17.1%), religious and esoteric works (32.8%), or even art books and beautiful books, which had suffered in 2020 (49.5%). Conversely, for lack of new textbooks, school books fell by 17.1%.

Manga craze

Through a catch-up effect – many publishers having canceled or postponed the publication of certain titles due to uncertainties linked to the health crisis – editorial production increased sharply in 2021, by 12.5%, to 109,480 titles. The craze for manga has, again, explained the exceptional increase in reprints.

The paperback had a very good vintage in 2021, since 124 million copies were sold, generating nearly 422 million euros for publishers (14.4%). In this format, literature still takes the lion’s share, with 60.7 million copies, and the SNE estimates that “the 2022 outlook for readers’ purchasing power suggests that the momentum for paperback and the tendency of publishers to pay more and more attention to it should continue to grow”.

The digital book continued, in 2021, a moderate growth, but the statistics of the SNE still do not include data on the audio book. Finally, internationally, the activity of French publishing houses is on the rise again, with a high volume of rights sales (16,878 titles were sold for translations) and co-publishing, particularly in comics or books for young people. What is little known is that Chinese is still well ahead of the main languages ​​for translating French books, followed by Italian, German, Spanish and Polish.

Will publishing stay on its own this year? Nothing is less sure. According to another indicator, the observatory of the Syndicat de la Librairie Française, book sales in half of independent bookstores in France fell by 11.7% between January 1 and June 28. A return to normal? In any case, this is a very relative drop, since these half-yearly data remain up 10.9% compared to the same period of 2019.