Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Icelandic publishers are not especially worried sales will drop during this year’s Christmas Book Flood, RÚV reports. While restrictions limit the number of shoppers in bookstores, sales remain steady, and many locals are turning to online stores to buy the books on their Christmas shopping list.
Icelanders have a long-standing tradition of giving books as Christmas presents. Publishers have supported this trend for decades with a flurry of new books released in the months leading up to Christmas. This surge in new titles is known as Jólabókaflóðið or the Christmas Book Flood. As the nation flocks to bookstores, the period is not only one of increased literary and cultural discussion – it’s also financially crucial for many publishers, who rely on sales during the flood to stay afloat.
“There is so much uncertainty that both are possible. You can be optimistic or you can be pessimistic,” stated Guðrún Vilmundardóttir head of publishing company Benedikt bókaútgáfa. “It’s much better for the soul and the nerves to be optimistic so I’m just going to allow myself to be that.” Guðrún says there has been significant interest in Benedikt’s newest titles and online sales are promising.
Borgar Jónsteinsson is director of sales at Penninn-Eymundsson, Iceland’s largest bookstore chain. “You could say the action hasn’t started yet,” he told reporters. “But book sales are nice and even and pretty much on par with the same time last year,” Borgar stated. “I’m very optimistic because I also see that publishing is good now.”
Recent history also suggested there are reasons for booksellers to be optimistic despite the economic situation. Books sold well in Iceland in 2008 and 2009, during the recession that followed the banking collapse. Perhaps Icelanders will also turn to the deep-seated tradition of book-giving this Christmas as well.