The Icelandic book market has suffered as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, RÚV reports. Nevertheless, audiobooks sales are flourishing and industry observers are optimistic about the country’s annual jólabókaflóð, or Christmas book flood.
Per data published by Statistics Iceland this week, print book sales got off to an unusually strong start during the first two months of the year: 20% higher in January and February 2020 than they were during the same time period last year. Not unexpectedly, sales went down significantly during March and April. This has been especially evident with the drop in paperback sales at the Eymundsson bookstore at Keflavík airport.
Although printed book sales have dropped, however, local demand for audiobooks has gone up a great deal. Head of the Association of Icelandic Booksellers Heiðar Ingi Svansson believes that demand for audiobooks will continue to be high in the future.
“We’ve also seen this in all the surrounding markets—audiobook sales and publishing are increasing. But what effect this will have on print publishing is a different question. Audiobook sales are also reaching a new market, new readers, and a new consumer group and, in some ways, are in competition with other online entertainment—podcasts and such.”
Even so, Heiðar Ingi says that the outlook for that quintessentially Icelandic phenomenon, the Christmas Book Flood, is not only good, but even better than it has been in recent years. And print books still dominate this annual tradition.
“What’s also unique about the Icelandic market is that ebooks haven’t gotten the same foothold here as they have elsewhere. They’re hardly measurable here in terms of the overall turnover, while they’re considerable in the Nordics and other countries in Europe that we compare ourselves with.”