market still has had stresses and strains in the intervening years. Castrén says: “Overall, I would say the state of the home market is not so great. Or, maybe a bit bipolar: publishers are very excited as their sales are going up because of digital growth, particularly audio. But booksellers are worried about what a lot of bookshop owners are the world over: the changing ways people read and where they get their books from. Book clubs— which until recently have been very popular in Finland— are dying, and the number of traditional bookshops is going down. And the sales of printed books have been declining for a long time now.” The statistics bear this out, with a top line that looks fairly rosy, at least over the past few years. Finnish Book Publishers Assocation data shows three consecutive years of full-market growth, hiting €257.9m of net sales (excluding VAT) in 2018, the market’s best result since 2013. Yet even with these three years of growth, sales still do not match where the market was in the mid-Noughties, with revenue dropping almost 36% (down €71m) from 2008 to 2018. Printed books slipped 2.4% in 2018 to €216.6m, while digital products have enjoyed three consecutive years of double-digit percentage growth, rising 19.1% to €41.4m in 2018. With print slipping, the major physical retailers are struggling. From 2014 to 2018, sales through bricks and mortar shops slumped 16% (to €47m), and sales through book clubs collapsed by 32% (to €30m). Another issue roiling the industry is proposed sweeping changes in the education system by the new government under prime minister Anti Rinne, which will effectively mean that bookshops will no longer be able to sell textbooks and materials to upper secondary students (ages 17–19), a significant part of many shops’ incomes. Castrén believes, with bookshops already struggling, that this will lead to a reduction in around a third of the number of stores in Finland, particuarly in smaller cities.

A fine Finnish

Otava was founded in 1890 by Hannes Gebhard and Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä in order to publish books in Finnish. As Finland was still then part of the Russian empire this was, if not an overly subversive act, politically dicey. Its m.d. Alvar Reenpää took over the business from its founders shortly aſter, and Otava remains in the Reenpää family hands to this day. Otava, incidentally, means

Otava’s Hits Four successes in 2019 to date

Ignoramus Reijo Mäki The 34th novel from the crime writer featuring Turku-based private eye Jussi Vares. Mäki has sold more than two million books in Finland since his debut in 1985.

War Widow Enni Mustonen Seventh in Mustonen’s hugely popular “Down- town Abbey”-esque series, set in 1920s and ’30s Finland. Mustonen is the pen name of screenwriter Kirsti Manninen.

The Women I Think of at Night Mia Kankimäki Kankimäki travels in the footsteps of famous, forgotten women. Rights sold to 12 territories, including North America (S&S) and Germany.

Tatu and Patu, Monster-Monster... Aino Havukainen & Sami Toivonen The 21st in the husband- and-wife team’s beloved Tatu and Patu series, which has topped a million unit sales in Finland.


“salmon net”, but is also what the Finns call the Ursa Major constellation. Challenges to the Finnish market aside, Castrén is bullish on the present and future. A big hit of the summer has been Bolla, the new novel from Pajtim Statovci, whose début, My Cat Yugoslavia, was an international smash hit. Otava has a significant chunk of the fiction in translation market in Finland, recently releasing bestsellers from Robert Galbraith, Ruth Ware and Nicci French. The chil- dren’s division is strong, with picture book powerhouse Mauri Kunnas the star of the list. In non-fiction, the big hit of the past 12 months has been Michelle Obama’s Becoming, still selling well 10 months aſter publication. Then there is audio, which is undergoing a huge surge in Finland, as it has done across the Nordic region. Otava is launching a new streaming services app this month, for e-books and audio, to tap into the growth. The root of the strategy, Castrén says, is that Otava has to be flexible in the way it atracts new customers. “A big positive of audio’s growth is that we are not losing readers [to the new format], we’re gaining new ones. The audiobook listener tends to be young [around 60% are under 34] and those who are not heavy readers. We have to be able to find new ways to target this audience.”


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