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Book print runs shrinking, sales in Estonia increasingly moving online

Püant closed its brick-and-mortar bookstore in 2023.
Püant closed its brick-and-mortar bookstore in 2023. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

This weekend, Tallinn Creative Hub hosted the Tallinn Book Fair Christmas sale. More and more books are being ordered online, however, while younger people prefer reading in English to their native language.

During the holidays, thousands of people will likely unwrap a copy of this year's novel competition winner, novice author but veteran politician Sven Mikser's debut novel "Vareda" – which is already in its third print.

"I don't actually go around like Oskar Luts' Lesta, a bundle of books on my shoulder, selling books myself," Mikser said. "That's what publishers and bookstores, of course book launches in bigger cities, and taking part in this book fair. I'm still here for readers."

Asked whether his publisher has asked him to do something for advertising that he wouldn't have expected of the literary world, the MEP said that after his time in politics, no sales techniques surprise him much.

Year after year, print runs have gotten smaller, and the average fiction print run is now in the 700-800 range; only children's books still dare be printed in editions of around 1,000.

"Fiction generally sells less than nonfiction, self-help – stuff like that is more of a sure thing – but some good fiction will sell thousands as well, like 'Vareda,'" explained Rahva Raamat publishing project manager Helen Kalpus.

Tänapäev Publishers editor-in-chief Tauno Vahter says that the pre-Christmas book fair is the only vendor event worth participating in for publishers. Book sales have largely moved online, although they have shifted into supermarkets as well.

"One thing we're also seeing here is that there are people here, and I'd even say there are more people than last year," Vahter commented. "But what we're seeing is that there aren't exactly a lot of young folks here; it's still moreso middle-aged and older folks."

He acknowledged that young people are still reading, but they're reading different types of books, including a lot in English.

Trainer Elina Šolotjuk, who stopped to buy a book related to her field, confirmed that she's a big reader, but admitted to mostly ordering books online from abroad.

"I'd like to read more fiction, but I don't have time for that right now," Šolotjuk said. "So I'm interested in books about how to manage your time, how to manage your emotions, as well as anatomy books. Moreso books that build me up."

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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