This article is the (rough) translation into English of an article which you can read in French HERE.
Together, we are experiencing an unprecedented ordeal on the triple front of health, economy and culture. The world of books seems deserted: bookshops closed, fairs cancelled, publications suspended, authors left destitute. After the first shock, the reopening of bookshops is being prepared and with it a recovery. And if we talk about the essentials?
Imbalances at the heart of the system
For years, the vitality of French publishing has taken on the face of a happy and carefree overabundance, materialised by a plethoric offer allegedly desired and constantly renewed. Alas, the situation hides a completely different reality: overproduction, which is harmful to the environment and floods bookstores, drowns out quality editorial production, which is more daring but less visible, shortens the life of books, intensifies returns and the shelling of unsold works, and finally accentuates the precariousness of artists.
This overproduction benefits the major publishing and distribution groups when its cost weighs unfairly on the independent publishing houses, which the current crisis is crushing a little more because they do not have cash reserves. By way of example, let us recall here that the leading French publishing group had a turnover of more than 2 billion euros in 2019, and that it publishes in a few days the equivalent of a year’s worth of independent small or medium-sized publishing houses.
At the time of lifting lockdown, nothing will have changed. The innumerable “new” titles from the major groups will enter the bookshops at a forced pace. Once again, the books from independent publishers, fewer in number because they are the result of rational production, will be less visible, therefore less sold and soon returned in large numbers to financially troubled companies.
In the coming months, despite the emergency measures proposed by the public authorities, independent publishing will pay a heavy price for the crisis if nothing else is done. The French publishing landscape will be flattened and impoverished. Creation will lose a stronghold, diversity an eminent representative, the independent bookshop an extra soul, libraries and literary events a fertile breeding ground, and readers a thousand opportunities for discovery, reflection and happiness.
Committed to editorial diversity
We, independent publishers of children’s and adult books, reject this dark fate and aspire to make this fragile moment a force for good practice in the service of books, culture and society in general. It’s more than about time we understood that, in the book trade too, good practices exist, that they must be perpetuated and generalised, otherwise the vitality and diversity of the book world will decline. Readers, once the lockdown has been lifted, come back to the bookshops and let the booksellers make you hear the choice of difference, of creation, of audacity, the demand for quality work with authors, the determination to keep books alive for a long time and to develop readable and coherent editorial lines. Readers, at the time of your choice, do not underestimate the scope of your commitment. To our bookstore friends, we say that our fates are linked and that a certain idea of what is essential depends on it.
Together, by the thousands, by the millions, let’s contribute to a thoughtful, healthy, fair and sustainable recovery. Let us make the choice of a book an opportunity for collective enrichment. It’s up to us.
A call at the initiative of:
Valérie Cussaguet (LES FOURMIS ROUGES), Laurence Faron (TALENTS HAUTS), Loïc Jacob and Chun-Liang Yeh (HONGFEI), Christine Morault (MEMO) and Jean Poderos (EDITIONS COURTES ET LONGUES)
Signed by 140 (French) publishing houses