Market Insights: Bulgaria Covid-19 Effect

14 - Октомври - 2020

The effects of COVID-19 on the Bulgarian book market are numerous. At the end of May, the Bulgarian Book Association conducted a survey among its members to understand the damage caused by the Covid-19 epidemic to the industry. The survey had 83 respondents, of which 80.5% were publishers, 3.7% book sellers, and 15.9% both. The results highlighted the greatest impacts to the sector.


The survey shows book sales decreased on average between 50% and 70% for the period of March - May 2020 compared to the previous year. In this same period, nearly 30% of respondents did not report growth in online book sales. For more than 40% of respondents, a key reason for their decline in sales was the closure of bookstores and printing houses, of which 42.2% ceased operations for more than 30 days.


Another key finding of the survey is that over 60% of publishers reported the postponement of every book the had planned for that period (new titles and reprints). In total, between 20% and 30% of the total planned books for publication in the current year were affected. Such postponement affects both the current revenue, and long-term sustainability of the sector.


Staff losses were substantial, with 50% of respondents reporting they let go of employees hired by their companies. This, however, does not display the full extent of the crisis as book publishers outsource much work (translators, editors, proof-readers, designers, illustrators, artists, reviewers, etc.), which means in reality there will have been further losses of employment.


These survey results were sent in a letter to the Minister of Culture, Mr. Boil Banov, together with a proposal for the preparation of a package of measures to support the country’s book industry. The proposed measures include insisting that the reduction in VAT on books from 20% to 9% be made a permanent measure, as well as taxing the supply of book printing services at a reduced rate. Further proposals were the introduction of institutional financing of library funds, and the introduction of special financial support for bookstores in small areas.


The Association also declared its support for the proposals of the European Federation of Book Publishers and the Federation of European and International Booksellers, which were sent to the European Ministers of Culture and EU Commissioner Maria Gabriel. Of these proposals, the introduction of book vouchers, opening of bookstores, and implementation of programs to finance the enrichment of the book funds of public institutions were key.


The European Commission and Bulgarian Government have introduced measures which benefit the book market. The European Commission approved a BGN 500 million public guarantee scheme to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by the pandemic. This scheme aims to reduce the risk associated with issuing loans to companies economically affected by the crisis. Furthermore, a BGN 1.5 billion Bulgarian wage subsidies support scheme was approved to preserve employment in sectors most affected by COVID-19. Under these temporary measures, a wage subsidy aid scheme allows the Bulgarian authorities to finance 60% of wage costs) of businesses that would otherwise let go of personnel.


To support the publishing sector, the Bulgarian Book Association launched the ‘Buy one Book’ campaign, as well as organizing the ‘Famous Bulgarians Read to Children’ initiative as part of their 9th ‘National Campaign to Promote the Reading of Books’.