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Reading fever in the Netherlands / Comic book boom in Flanders

Frankfurt, 5 October 2016 – Following its successful premiere in 2015, this year, on the Tuesday before the fair, THE MARKETS, the conference to kick off the Frankfurt Book Fair, will once again turn the spotlight on seven different book and media markets. The markets that will be examined in 2016 are:

Flanders & the Netherlands
United Arab Emirates

On Tuesday, 18 October 2016, important publishers, strategists and industry experts from these countries will present their respective markets and offer analyses, visions, direct professional contacts and personal tips. The one-day conference is organised by the Frankfurt Book Fair in cooperation with the US trade magazine Publishing Perspectives.

Reading fever in the Netherlands

Hardly any other European country boasts more books sold and read per capita than the Netherlands. The Netherlands comes in at second place in terms of the number of books read per inhabitant (Sweden holds first place). In 2015, 86 per cent of the Dutch read at least one book.

Between 2008 and 2014, the Netherlands’ publishing world suffered a dramatic 30 per cent contraction of the market. Following this extended dry spell, last year the Dutch book market once again recorded respectable growth. In 2015, total sales reached 498.5 million euros – an increase of 3.5 per cent over 2014. During the Christmas season alone, sales were up by 15 per cent over the same period in 2014. Nonfiction/informational titles and children’s books represented the largest share of this growth (up by 4 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively).

Wiet de Bruijn, CEO of the VBK Publishers Group and a speaker at the conference THE MARKETS, emphasises: “With 3.5 per cent, the Dutch book market registered the strongest growth in Europe.”

The number of copies sold also rose by 5 per cent in 2015, to 39 million (from 37.3 million in 2014). In 2015, a total of more than 377,000 titles were sold, some 131,000 of which were in Dutch. The number of new releases fell from 60,586 to 54,210 titles.

A particular feature in the Netherlands is its distribution system: 95 per cent of all books and e-books are distributed through CB Logistics, a partnership between 500 publishers, 1,800 bookstores and 74 online bookstores.

The Netherlands’ neighbour, Germany, remains an important export market for the Guest of Honour of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016. To date in 2016, over 100 publishers have bought German-language rights from Dutch publishers.

E-books hold steady

The Dutch e-book market is developing steadily. In 2015, sales in this segment totalled 18.47 million euros, just marginally more than in 2014. This represents a roughly 3.8 per cent share of the total market. Currently, there are 38,855 e-book titles available, including 85 per cent of the Dutch “Bestseller 60” list. In 2015, the number of new releases in e-book format comprised 9,532 titles.

Publisher de Bruijn believes that piracy is a central problem in the Dutch e-book market. This calls for new technologies, such as Bitcoin technology, for example, which can protect e-books from illegal use. According to the latest research, an average of 117 e-books are downloaded onto each e-reader – roughly 1.5 million of which are in circulation – but only 11 of these have been paid for.

Comic book boom in Flanders

If Flemish culture minister Sven Gatz has his way, beginning in the spring of 2017, booksellers and supermarkets will no longer be allowed to offer substantial discounts, on bestsellers in particular. It will only be possible to offer significant markdowns on new releases – in both printed and electronic form – after six months. The Flemish government has already approved the bill.

It remains to be seen if this will revive the relatively limited book market. The first half of 2016 saw rather modest activity. Sales declined by 6.2 per cent compared to the same period of the previous year. Already in 2015, total sales in the Flemish book market had increased only marginally, by 0.2 per cent to 195.7 million euros. Since 2011, the market has had to bear 19 million euros in losses. The largest shares of total sales were reported in the nonfiction (43.5 per cent), fiction (26.5 per cent) and children’s books (19 per cent) segments.

In 2015, the number of copies sold also grew only slightly, by around 700,000 to 15.21 million. Two-thirds of these sales occurred through traditional bookselling channels. Sales through online channels and through independent bookstores registered substantial gains (up by 16 per cent and 12.5 per cent, respectively).

Rather unsurprising is the advance of comic books, which saw a jump in sales of almost 14 per cent over 2014. In 2015, some three million copies were sold, outstripping the previous record-setting year for comics, 2013. There are five comic book titles among the top 10 most-sold books alone. No other country boasts of as many comic book artists as Belgium: 650 comic book authors in a population of 10 million. In addition to The Adventures of Tintin, other comics that are famous well beyond the country’s borders include Lucky Luke, The Smurfs, The Adventures of Nero and Marsupilami.

E-books managed to increase their share of the total market from 2.9 per cent to 3.14 per cent. In 2015, in Flanders, 42,546 e-book titles were published by 356 publishers and distributed through 190 online retailers – an increase of 2 per cent. The average price was just short of 8 euros. Technological conditions for further growth are positive. Currently, there are 301,700 e-readers and 4.36 million tablets in circulation.

Overview of the Dutch book market (2015)
Sales: 498.5 million euros
Copies sold: 39 million
Publishers: 1,110 (online: 320)
New releases: 54,210
Book retailers: 1,354 stores (online retailers: 192)

Overview of the Flemish book market (2015):
Sales: 195.7 million euros
Copies sold: 15.21 million
Publishers (2014): 100
New releases (2014): 27,700 titles
Available titles (2014): 105,000 titles

Sources and further information:
Flemish Publishers Association:

Dutch Publishers Association:

About the Frankfurt Book Fair
The Frankfurt Book Fair is the international publishing industry’s biggest trade fair – with 7,100 exhibitors from more than 100 countries, around 275,000 visitors, over 4,000 events and around 10,000 accredited journalists (including 2,000 bloggers) in attendance. It also gathers key players from other media, including the film and games industries. Since 1976, the Book Fair has featured an annual Guest of Honour country, which showcases its book market, literature and culture to attendees in a variety of ways. The Frankfurt Book Fair organises the participation of German publishers in some 20 international book fairs and hosts trade events throughout the year in major international markets. With its Business Club, the Frankfurt Book Fair offers entrepreneurs, publishers, founders, thought leaders, experts and visionaries an ideal setting for their business activities. The Frankfurt Book Fair is a subsidiary of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association.

Contact for the media:
Press & Corporate Communications, Frankfurt Book Fair
Katja Böhne, Vice President Marketing & Communications, tel.: +49 (0) 69 2102-138,
Kathrin Grün, PR Manager, tel.: +49 (0) 69 2102-170,
> Press information online >
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