"Sales of children's books during Children's Book Week edition 2023 are higher than in 2019, 2020 and 2021. This applies to both sales through physical shops and e-commerce." KVB-Boekwerk, the research institute of Dutch Booksellers, has been publishing trend reports on the book market for a few years now. This year, for the first time, these include figures on sales of children's books, especially during Children's Book Week. There's something funny about that.
Anyone who has followed Culture Press a little, over the past few years, knows that we make a hobby of publishing annual figures of industry organisations and ministries. We do this because those institutions usually turn it into a celebration of optimistic cheerfulness. Vendors' PR departments are allowed that, but it always gets a bit tricky when six months later those same optimistic figures are deployed to indicate that it is deep crisis in the industry. Every time we predict that here it results in angry e-mails, and the Museum Association has therefore even declared a boycott of Culture Press.
Whether KVB Boekwerk will do so this year? At best, people will say again that we have drowned in a tub of acid here. Because yes, the figures are not as rosy as the industry would have you believe. Let us add this sentence: "Sales of children's books during the Children's Book Week edition 2023 are higher than in 2019, 2020 and 2021. This applies to both sales through physical shops and e-commerce." The good reader will see that one year has been left out, namely 2022. That was a year with a fine continuing positive trend compared to previous years. This year, sales are considerably lower than last year, but still higher than those years before.
Why do annuals do that? Good question, to which the answer is especially important internally. There is a persistent misconception in marketing land that negative news is bad for sales. THERE is some truth in that, people prefer to spend money on rich companies because wealth breeds confidence. Robin Hood is turning in his grave.
So news that book sales are falling is bad news and that scares away buyers. But then again, doing it so openly strikes me as naive. After all, it is important news that the positive trend that emerged during Corona (because that is what it is about) does not seem to have continued after Corona. Reason enough for moments of introspection and research: why did more people buy children's books during children's book week when the Netherlands was groaning under the pandemic. Was it because children had to stay home en masse?
I hope that at the seminar on 25 January 2024, the industry will come up with answers. Because those answers will determine how future generations can continue to enjoy books.