ISTANBUL - Referans
The recent global economic crisis, the closure case against the ruling party and the Ergenekon investigation into journalists and retired generals accused of forming a gang to topple the government have created stagnation in the Turkish market. The publishing world has been no exception, as book sales have dropped by 20 percent compared to last year's sales figures.
Publishers and bookstore owners say they are trying to overcome the gloomy economic situation by decreasing the number of books they print and increasing the variety of book titles.
Book sales have dropped by around 20 to 30 percent in the last four or five years, said Metin Celal, secretary general of the Turkish Publishers' Association. This is partly due to unpreventable pirated publishing, he explained.
Celal noted that many bookstores in Anatolian provinces have closed down since the Education Ministry started to distribute books free of charge in these areas, saying this has caused a serious decline in book sales. Those bookstores used to sell textbooks as well, but when the Education Ministry started to distribute free textbooks sales decreased so stores began to close down one by one, he added.
Celal also drew attention to the recent economic stagnation in the Turkish market. He argued consumers have started to spend less on books, music and cinema due to overall economic stagnation, which he referred to as “economic depression.” In this context all publishers can do is decrease the number of copies they print and increase the variety of titles, he said.
On the other hand, Müge Sökmen, an editor at one of country's most prominent publishing companies, Metis Publications, said even though Metis had expanded the diversity of its publications, it still had not recorded any increase in sales. For Sökmen, the recent decrease in book sales is not primarily due to a financial crisis but to the remarkable change in the country's cultural atmosphere in recent years.
Meanwhile, Deniz Taştan, director of the Cağaloğlu branch of İmge Bookstore, said the publishing sector has faced a 15 percent decrease in book sales in the last few years, adding this is not only related to problems in the publishing sector. Taştan argued that constantly publishing new books overwhelms readers. The monthly number of new titles was between 150 and 190 two years ago but now it is about 350, said Taştan, adding that readers have difficulty following so many titles.
Şafak Yaylalı, sales representative for Mephisto Bookstore, said the company's sales have also declined compared the last few years. Readers have the most interest in history books and books on politics and personal development. However, Yaylalı believes decreasing the number of prints and increasing the diversity of genres would not work because publishing houses have started to sell books at higher prices, which does not help in attracting more customers.
Some still optimistic
Özgür Kalyoncu Akın, director of sales and marketing at Can Publications, has a more optimistic perspective regarding the recent fall in book sales. She said she accepts that a decline has occurred at a certain level in the retail sales but that she does not consider this a major fall given that other sectors have been facing similar setbacks. Akın suggested that special campaigns might work in such periods of decline. Putting more books on the market is always a valid method, she said, adding that the recent decline in book sales should be attributed to the fact that the book market in Turkey has grown and a better-functioning distribution system has emerged in recent years.
Sırma Köksal, chief editor of Everest Publications, is also among those who hold an optimistic view about the present situation of the book market in Turkey despite the recent decrease in sales. Köksal said no decline has occurred in the sales rate of books by the company's best-selling writers. But she admitted books of many other writers have been selling less for some time. To overcome the present crisis, Everest has started publishing a pocket book series, she said, adding that publishing more bestsellers might revive the market.
Different studies show different figures for reading patterns
A report released by a teacher's union created controversy in Turkey last year. The report of the Union of Independent Teachers, or BES, said Turkey ranked below even most African countries in levels of reading books. While 14 percent of the population in Japan read books regularly, only 0.001 percent of the Turkish population picks up a book on a regular basis. The number of titles printed in the United States each year is 72,000, while it is only 7,000 in Turkey.
But Metin Celal, secretary general of the Turkish Publishers' Association, argued in a piece published in a daily Cumhuriyet supplement that the figures released by BES were not accurate. Celal wrote that not 7,000 but 32,750 different titles are published on average in Turkey each year. On the other hand, he argued the total number of book copies, including both legal and pirated ones, was about 393 million in 2007 and that the number of books per capita was 5.5, which contradicted a recent estimate that put the figure at one book per 10,000 people in Turkey.