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The Bookseller Advertisement Feature


LITERATURE


FINNS BACK HOME-GROWN AS DIGITAL EDITIONS RISE


Finland loves books: a government study last year showed that a whop- ping 85% of Finns said they enjoy reading, while 73% had bought at least one book in the previous 12 months. But, say some of the country’s leading publishers, the trade is in the midst of seismic changes. The rise of e-books and digital


audio is the biggest evolution in Finland’s book world. Outi Mäkinen, director of literature at Bonnier-owned Tammi Publishers, says: “Reading habits have changed a lot from print to digital, especially audiobooks. Technical developments and new subscription services have supported this growth and Finnish publishers have invested a lot in creating audio- books, not just frontlist but also back- list [titles].” Combined e-book and digital audio


sales rose by almost 550% from 2014 to 2018 (to €7.1m), last year eclipsing mass-market paperback revenues for the first time. Though hardbacks are far and away Finland’s biggest print format, this is something of a water- shed moment. There are difficulties with the digital


shift, says Minna Castrén, publishing director of Finland’s biggest group, Otava, with some bricks-and-mortar booksellers struggling. She adds: “A big positive of audio’s growth is that we are not necessarily 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 aren’t normally heavy readers. We have to be able to find new ways to target this audience.” In terms of what rules the Finnish book charts, Castrén sees “brainy books” (serious non-fiction), children’s and home-grown fiction as key trends. She adds: “Overall, Finnish authors tend to outsell international ones, because Finns have an especially close


and appreciative relationship with our authors. Yes, we in the book trade are nervous about the market and that people now have so many other types of media to distract us. But Finns have this rich literary tradition and it gives us a strong emotional connection to our past.” Both Castrén and Mäkinen believe


Finland’s book trade benefited, and still benefits, from the country’s Guest of Honour at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair. Mäkinen says: “Finnish literature got internationally recognised then. Everyone in the book world had already heard about and bought Scandinavian crime fiction, but at FBF they found Finland up there somewhere, too. That was cool. And it still is.”


Castrén agrees: “Getting to be the


MINNA CASTRÉN


centre of attention as a country, a literature and a language was incredible. There were practical benefits, like the selling of rights. But it also created a self-confidence among us that Finnish literature was—and is—widely appealing and can ‘travel’ in translation.” That self-confidence still infuses the Finnish reading nation at every level of society, Mäkinen says. She notes that Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö is famously a collector of Tammi’s translated literature imprint Yellow Library, which celebrates its 65th anniversary this year—he even interviewed Paul Auster for Tammi when the American author came to town promoting his latest Yellow Library-published title. She says: “Finns value books and reading highly, and for a reason. Reading is a superpower. Reading really makes us happy. And what’s best is that’s not only a slogan but true, according to scientific surveys.”


ABOVE THE LIBRARY ACCOMMODATES


A CHILDREN’S STORYTIME AS WELL AS WORKERS IN ISOLATION


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