Tag: book trade

Online, offline?

17 April 2014 | Articles, Non-fiction

‘The bookworm’ (old-fashioned) by Carl Spitzweg, ca. 1850. Museum Georg Schäfer. Photo: Wikimedia

‘The bookworm’ (old-fashioned) by Carl Spitzweg, ca. 1850. Museum Georg Schäfer. Photo: Wikimedia

Ebooks are not books, says Teemu Manninen, and publishers who do not know what marketing them is about, may eventually find they are not publishers any more

At least once a year, there is an article in a major Finnish newspaper that asks: ‘So, what about the ebook?’ The answer is, as always: ‘Nothing much.’

It’s true. The revolution still hasn’t arrived, the future still isn’t here, the publishers still aren’t making money. In Finland, the ebook doesn’t seem to thrive. The sales have stagnated, and large bookstores like the Academic Bookstore are closing their ebook services due to a lack of customers.

Why is Finland such a backwater? Why don’t Finns buy ebooks?

The usual explanation is that Finland is a small country with a weird language, so the large ebook platforms like Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iBook store have not taken off here. Another patsy we can all easily blame is the government, which has placed a high 24% sales tax on the ebook. If that isn’t enough, we can always point a finger at the lack of devices and applications or whatever technical difficulty we can think of. More…

Funny stuff: best-selling books in February

13 March 2014 | In the news

image.phpThe list of best-selling books – compiled by the Finnish Booksellers’ Association – shows that in February comedy was popular among readers. Number one on the Finnish fiction list was Fingerpori 7 (‘Fingerborg 7’, Arktinen Banaani), the latest comics book by Pertti Jarla, featuring silly stuff taking place in the city of Fingerpori.

Riikka Pulkkinen’s new novel, a romantic comedy entitled Iiris Lempivaaran levoton ja painava sydän (‘Iiris Lempivaara’s restless and heavy heart’, Otava) which was originally published in a weekly women’s magazine, was number four. A satirical television series featuring two silly women devoted to dating and clubbing has also resulted in a book written by the two actresses, Heli Sutela and Minna Koskela: Anne ja Ellu lomamatkalla (‘Anne and Ellu on holiday’, published by Annen ja Ellun tuotanto) made its way to the seventh place. Number eight was Pertti Jarla’s Fingerborg 4!

However, number two was a first novel about problems arising in a religious family, Taivaslaulu (‘Heaven song’, Gummerus), by Pauliina Rauhala. Number three was a first novel by an immigrant Somali woman, Nura Farah: Aavikon tyttäret (‘Daughters of the desert’, Otava) tells the story of women in Somalia in the second half of the 20th century.

On the non-fiction list, among cookbooks and diet guides, books on how to maintain a hormonal balance or how to wield a kettlebell sold well. A new biography, Tove Jansson (Tammi), telling the life story of the Moomin genius (1914–2001), the artist, painter, author and cartoonist, was number seven; the author is Tuula Karjalainen. (The book will be published in several countries this year, a World English edition in December.)

At the top of the best-selling children’s books list is a book entitled Muumit ja tekemisen taika – ‘The Moomins and the magic of doing’ (Tammi). This ‘Moomin’ book is written by Clive Alan: we know absolutely nothing about him (he is absent from his publisher’s list of authors!) – except that the name is a pseudonym.

Well, as before, it is our opinion that all the Moomin books really worth reading were created by Tove Jansson herself.

How much did Finland read?

30 January 2014 | In the news

hirvisaariThe book year 2013 showed an overall decrease – again: now for the fifth time – in book sales: 2.3 per cent less than in 2012. Fiction for adults and children as well as non-fiction sold 3–5 per cent less, whereas textbooks sold 4 per cent more, as did paperbacks, 2 per cent. The results were published by the Finnish Book Publishers’ Association on 28 January.

The overall best-seller on the Finnish fiction list in 2013 was Me, Keisarinna (‘We, tsarina’, Otava), a novel about Catherine the Great by Laila Hirvisaari. Hirvisaari is a queen of editions with her historical novels mainly focusing on women’s lives and Karelia: her 40 novels have sold four million copies.

However, her latest book sold less well than usual, with 62,800 copies. This was much less than the two best-selling novels of 2012: both the Finlandia Prize winner, Is, Jää (‘Ice’) by Ulla-Lena Lundberg, and the latest book by Sofi Oksanen, Kun kyyhkyset katosivat (‘When the doves disappeared’), sold more than 100,000 copies.

The winner of the 2013 Finlandia Prize for Fiction, Riikka Pelo’s Jokapäiväinen elämämme (‘Our everyday life’, Teos) sold 45,300 copies and was at fourth place on the list. Pauliina Rauhala’s first novel, Taivaslaulu (‘Heaven song’, Gummerus), about the problems of a young couple within a religious revivalist movement that bans family planning was, slightly surprisingly, number nine with almost 30,000 copies.

The best-selling translated fiction list was – not surprisingly – dominated by crime literature: number one was Dan Brown’s Inferno, with 60,400 copies.

Number one on the non-fiction list was, also not surprisingly, Guinness World Records with 35,700 copies. Next came a biography of Nokia man Jorma Ollila. The winner of the Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction, Murtuneet mielet (‘Broken minds’, WSOY), sold 22,600 copies and was number seven on the list.

Eight books by the illustrator and comics writer Mauri Kunnas featured on the list of best-selling books for children and young people, with 105,000 copies sold. At 19th place was an Angry Birds book by Rovio Enterntainment. The winner of the Finlandia Junior Prize, Poika joka menetti muistinsa (‘The boy who lost his memory’, Otava), was at fifth place.

Kunnas was also number one on the Finnish comic books list – with his version of a 1960s rock band suspiciously reminiscent of the Rolling Stones – which added 12,400 copies to the figure of 105,000.

The best-selling e-book turned was a Fingerpori series comic book by Pertti Jarla: 13,700 copies. The sales of e-books are still very modest in Finland, despite the fact that the number of ten best-selling e-books, 87,000, grew from 2012 by 35,000 copies.

The cold fact is that Finns are buying fewer printed books. What can be done? Writing and publishing better and/or more interesting books and selling them more efficiently? Or is this just something we will have to accept in an era when books will have less and less significance in our lives?

November favourites: what Finland read

19 December 2013 | In the news

Best-selling: ‘Singing songbook’, edited by Soili Perkiö

Best-selling: ‘Singing songbook’, edited by Soili Perkiö

The November list of best-selling fiction and non-fiction, compiled by the Finnish Booksellers’ Association (lists in Finnish only) features thrillers, new Finnish fiction and biographies.

Number one of the Finnish fiction list was the latest thriller by Ilkka Remes, Omertan liitto (‘The Omerta union’, WSOY). It was followed by the latest novels by Tuomas Kyrö, Kunkku (‘The king’, Siltala), and Kari Hotakainen, Luonnon laki (‘The law of nature’).

The translated fiction list consisted of best-selling crime writers: Dan Brown, Liza Marklund, Jo Nesbø. The Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro was number seven – and one of her books was at the top of the paperback fiction list.

Singing has inspired book-buyers so much that Soiva laulukirja (‘Singing songbook’, Tammi), edited by Soili Perkiö, was number one on the list of the books for children and young people: the push of a button delivers piano accompaniment to any of 50 Finnish songs – a clever idea. Perhaps it is popular with parents as entertainment for their kids on long car journeys?

The non-fiction list featured biographies of Jorma Ollila of Nokia fame, the banking tycoon Björn Wahlroos, Lauri Törni aka Larry Thorn who fought in three armies – those of Finland, Nazi Germany, and the US (he died in Vietnam in 1965) – an ice-hockey boss, Juhani Tamminen, and the sprinter Usain Bolt.

What Finland read in August

12 September 2013 | In the news

Cantharellus cibarius: very edible. Photo: Wikipedia/Andreas Kunze

Cantharellus cibarius: very edible. Photo: Wikimedia/Andreas Kunze

The August list of best-selling fiction and non-fiction, compiled by the Finnish Booksellers’ Association, features thrillers, new Finnish fiction, dictionaries and diet guides.

Number one of the Finnish fiction list was a new crime novel by Leena Lehtolainen, Rautakolmio (‘The iron triangle’, Tammi). The new novel, Hägring (‘Mirage’, Schildts & Söderströms; in Finnish, Kangastus, Otava), by Kjell Westö, was number two; in third place was Aapine, an ABC-book written in the south-western dialect by poet and author Heli Laaksonen and illustrated by Elina Warsta (Otava).

The list of translated fiction included – not surprisingly – names like Dan Brown, Jon Nesbø, Camilla Läckberg, Charlaine Harris and Henning Mankell.

5:2 dieetti (The Fast Diet), by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, sold like hot cakes – the Finns are statistically the fattest people in Scandinavia – and was number one on the non-fiction list. There were also several dictionaries (four of them Finnish-English-Finnish) as well as a field guide to mushrooms, of which there are plenty in the woods this early autumn. It is indeed essential to be able to tell the Poisonpie and the Sickener from the real deliciacies.

Books and roses

23 April 2013 | In the news

logoThe tradition of the international Day of the Book and the Rose derives from 1920s Barcelona, where the tradition was for men to give women roses while women gave men books.

23 April is the day – and it is (possibly) also Shakespeare’s birthday. In 1995 UNESCO proclaimed it is the World Book and Copyright Day.

(Actually, we’ve always thought the idea of what is exchanged is rather silly. As women, we would much rather be given a a book than a withering cut flower. On the other hand though, a rose is a safe bet….)

Last year, the Finnish booksellers decided to celebrate the occasion by publishing a new novel which was given for free to all customers who made a purchase worth €10. This was the only way to get hold of a copy; the print run was 3,000 copies. The author was Tuomas Kyrö, the novel, Miniä (‘Daughter-in-law’).

This year the print run is more than tenfold, and the author is Jari Tervo. His novel  Jarrusukka (‘Slipper sock’) tells the story of a teacher, working in an immigrant neighbourhood, who finds out it’s not possible to lease a baby in a short term.

Helsinki Book Fair 2012

25 October 2012 | In the news

The twelfth Helsinki Book Fair opens today at the Exhibition and Convention Centre. Last year the Fair attracted more than 80,000 visitors.

During four days around 700 interviews and discussions with writers will take place on twelve stages, and there will be more than 300 exhibitors in the various fields of literature.

Author Jari Tervo has been nominated the Book Fair Club’s columnist: in his first contribution, entitled ‘Median myllyt’ (‘The mills of the media’) Tervo says, among other things:

‘During the last 30 years the amount of public attention directed at Finnish authors has probably multiplied by ten. How has it affected the sales of literature? Not at all. The sales haven’t multiplied by ten, or even doubled. Has the increased public attention affected the content of literature? I don’t think it has….

‘The media doesn’t churn authors in its mill because literature is so exceedingly important. To the media the authors are a biomass that is able to articulate a touch more juicily than the average celebrity. An author needs less editing. It’s as simple as that.’

This time the featured country is Hungary: the guest writers are György Spiró, Sandor Zsigmond Papp, Vilmos Csaplár, Péter Esterházy and Léda Forgó. There are 30 guests from 11 countries.

The prize Rakkaudesta kirjaan, ‘Out of love for the book’, was awarded posthumously to the writer, critic and editor Jarmo Papinniemi (1968–2012), who, according to the jury of literary experts was an exceptionally versatile professional working in the field of the arts.

The book and the rose

3 May 2012 | In the news

The twenty-third of April – Shakespeare’s birthday – is the international day of the book and the rose. The tradition derives, however, not from England but from Barcelona, where the tradition was for men to give women roses while women gave men books.

This year Finnish booksellers decided to celebrate the occasion by publishing a new novel which was given for free to all customers who made a purchase worth €10. This was the only way to get hold of a copy; the print run was 3,000 copies.

The chosen work was a new novel by Tuomas Kyrö, entitled Miniä (‘Daughter-in-law’). The narrator is the daughter-in-law of the main character of Kyrö’s two popular novels, Mielensäpahoittaja (‘Taking offence’) and Mielensäpahoittaja ja ruskeakastike (‘Taking offence: the brown sauce’). The grumpy old man from the country comes to stay with his son and his daughter-in-law in the capital –  which inevitably results in practical (and mainly comical) discordance of various sorts.

Beautiful books

9 March 2012 | In the news

Design: Markus Pyörälä. The cover of Runojä (‘Poemms’) by Harry Salmenniemi

The Finnish Book Art Committee chooses the most beautiful books of the year from various categories of publications, and awards the prize of the Most Beautiful Book of the Year.

Graphic design, typography, cover and binding are all taken into consideration. Honorary diplomas are awarded to the designers, publishers, printers and other production units of the prize-winning books.

The Finnish Fair Foundation makes an annual grant to the Finnish Book Art Committee, which works in cooperation with the National Library of Finland. Representatives from various fields participate in the work of the juries. The prizes has been awarded since 1947.

This year the Most Beautiful Book of the Year was a collection of poetry by Harry Salmenniemi, Runojä (Runoja, ‘Poems’, deliberately misspelt in the title – ‘Poemms’?). The graphic designer is Markus Pyörälä, the publisher, Otava.

The jury commented: ‘Just as in the poetry itself, all the senses are engaged on the cover. The typography, so instrumental to prose poetry, provides structure and surprises…. All traditional beauty is there too: the tender touch of the paper, the snappy binding and the skillfully chosen fonts. Gold on the cover, overall, platinum.’

Out of my hands

10 November 2011 | Articles, Non-fiction

Who's been eating my porridge? From ‘English Fairy Tales’ by Flora Annie Steel (1918), illustrated by Arthur Rackham. The Project Gutenberg e-Book

In the classic fairy-tale, on finding their belongings were not as they had left them, the three bears exclaimed: ‘Who’s been eating my porridge?’ When our technology correspondent Teemu Manninen found someone else’s underlinings in the electronic text he was reading, he wondered: ‘Who’s been tampering with my ebook?’ Which led him to ponder how similar books and their virtual counterparts really are – and could his ebook really be called ‘his’?

A few months ago I was reading an ebook on my iPad when I came across an underlined passage. For a moment I felt strangely disturbed. My initial thought was that I had not made the underlining, and therefore this had to be a glitch, an error in the computer program that was the book, which meant that there was something wrong with my book. What made this thought disturbing was the realisation that the kinds of harm that can befall digital books – and the measures that one can take to prevent them – are no longer ‘in my hands’: that the book is no longer physical, but virtual. More…

Helsinki Book Fair 2011

2 November 2011 | In the news

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the Book Fair: Viro is Estonia in Finnish. Photo: Kimmo Brandt/The Finnish Fair Corporation

The Helsinki Book Fair, held from 27 to 30 October, attracted more visitors than ever before: 81,000 people came to browse and buy books at the stands of nearly 300 exhibitors and to meet more than a thousand writers and performers at almost 700 events.

The Music Fair, the Wine, Food and Good Living event and the sales exhibition of contemporary art, ArtForum, held at the same time at Helsinki’s Exhibition and Convention Centre, expanded the selection of events and – a significant synergetic advantage, of course – shopping facilities. Twenty-eight per cent of the visitors thought this Book Fair was better than the previous one held in 2010.

According to a poll conducted among three hundred visitors, 21 per cent had read an electronic book while only 6 per cent had an e-book reader of their own. Twenty-five per cent did not believe that e-books will exceed the popularity of printed books, and only three per cent believed that e-books would win the competition.

Estonia was the theme country this time. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of the Republic of Estonia noted in his speech at the opening ceremony: ‘As we know well from the fate of many of our kindred Finno-Ugric languages, not writing could truly mean a slow national demise. So publish or perish has special meaning here. Without a literary culture, we would simply not exist and we have known this for many generations, since the Finnish and Estonian national epics Kalevala and Kalevipoeg. – During the last decade, more original literature and translations have been published in Estonia than ever before. And we need only access the Internet to glimpse the volume of text that is not printed – it is even larger than the printed corpus. We live in an era of flood, not drought, and thus it is no wonder that as a discerning people, we do not want to keep our ideas and wisdom to ourselves but try to share and distribute them more widely. The idea is not to try to conquer the world but simply, with our own words, to be a full participant in global literary culture, and in the intellectual history and future of humankind.’

Finland meets Estonia: authors Sofi Oksanen and Viivi Luik in discussion. Photo: Kimmo Brandt/The Finnish Fair Corporation

Springtime in Paris: Nordic writers on a French visit

25 March 2011 | In the news

With an icy northerly wind at my back I took off from Helsinki and landed in Paris, where it was springtime and the cherry trees were in bloom. The aim of my trip was to join eleven translators from Finnish into all the main Nordic languages in examining the trickiest corners of the Finnish language and discussing the actual working conditions of literary translators, as well as the possibilities for Nordic literature to assert itself in the world.

I was also going to meet with and listen to more than sixty writers from all the Nordic countries. Why did I have to go to Paris to do it? Because this was where Bokskogen, the Forest of Books, had grown.

At the Salon du Livre held in Paris from 18 to 21 March, at which the Nordic countries were the guests of honour, FILI (the Finnish Literature Exchange) was in charge of coordinating the Nordic pavilion, some 400 square metres in area.

The airy Scandinavian Forest of Books was filled with the murmur of Parisians in search of something Nordic to read and intent on having their newly purchased books signed by authors like Sofi Oksanen, Kari Hotakainen, Matti Rönkä, Monika Fagerholm, Katarina Gäddnäs, Seita Parkkola, Aira Savisaari, Johanna Sinisalo, Aino Havukainen and Sami Toivonen.

Before the official inauguration by France’s Minister of Culture Frédéric Mittérand the programmes had already been underway for four days. Just over a hundred professional people –  publishers, translators and other cultural figures and institutions from across the Nordic countries – took part in various workshops to discuss common focal points and share experiences and best practices with each other and their French colleagues.

One of the major events was the Cultural Forum, a collaboration between FILI, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Finnish presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. Its theme was the training of translators, and also the book industry in a global context.

In early March a dozen French journalists and booksellers toured Helsinki and Tammisaari (Ekenäs) in order to meet Finnish authors and interview them as a prelude to the big show. As a result Nordic literature also made its presence felt in France’s press and bookstores.

Translated by David McDuff

The books that sold

11 March 2011 | In the news

-Today we're off to the Middle Ages Fair. – Oh, right. - Welcome! I'm Knight Orgulf. – I'm a noblewoman. -Who are you? – The plague. *From Fingerpori by Pertti Jarla

Among the ten best-selling Finnish fiction books in 2010, according statistics compiled by the Booksellers’ Association of Finland, were three crime novels.

Number one on the list was the latest thriller by Ilkka Remes, Shokkiaalto (‘Shock wave‘, WSOY). It sold 72,600 copies. Second came a new family novel Totta (‘True’, Otava) by Riikka Pulkkinen, 59,100 copies.

Number three was a new thriller by Reijo Mäki (Kolmijalkainen mies, ‘The three-legged man’, Otava), and a new police novel by Matti Yrjänä Joensuu, Harjunpää ja rautahuone (‘Harjunpää and the iron room’, Otava), was number six.

The Finlandia Fiction Prize winner 2010, Nenäpäivä (‘Nose day’, Teos) by Mikko Rimminen, sold almost 54,000 copies and was fourth on the list. Sofi Oksanen’s record-breaking, prize-winning Puhdistus (Purge, WSOY; first published in 2008) was still in fifth place, with 52,000 copies sold.

Among translated fiction books were, as usual, names like Patricia Cornwell, Dan Brown and Liza Marklund.

In non-fiction, the weather, fickle and fierce, seems to be a subject of endless interest to Finns; the list was topped by Sääpäiväkirja 2011 (‘Weather book 2011’, Otava), with a whopping 140,000 copies. Number two was the Guinness World Records 2011, but with just 43,000 copies. Books on wine, cookery and garden were popular. A book on Finnish history after the civil war, Vihan ja rakkauden liekit (‘Flames of hate and love’, Otava) by Sirpa Kähkönen, made it to number 8 on the list.

The Finnish children’s books best-sellers’ list was topped by the latest picture book by Mauri Kunnas, Hurja-Harri ja pullon henki (‘Wild Harry and the genie’, Otava), selling almost 66,000 copies. As usual, Walt Disney ruled the roost in the translated fiction list.

The Finnish comics list was dominated by Pertti Jarla (his Fingerpori series books sold more than 70,000 copies, almost as much as Remes’ Shokkiaalto!) and Juba Tuomola (Viivi and Wagner series; both mostly published by Arktinen Banaani): between them, they grabbed 14 places out of 20!

Kai Ekholm & Yrjö Repo: Kirja tienhaarassa vuonna 2020 [The book at the crossroads in 2020]

10 December 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kirja tienhaarassa vuonna 2020
[The book at the crossroads in 2020]
Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 2010. 205 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-495-158-6
€29, paperback

This book looks at Finnish book publishing and its likely rate and direction of change. The future of the Finnish industry looks slightly more favourable than similar international forecasts have made out, although there have been some shake-ups in the Finnish book world too. The authors point out that while the decrease of reading as a leisure pursuit appears to be part of a long-term international trend, many feared for the future of the book in previous centuries as well. Book production and distribution, as well as changes undergone by various genres, are illustrated through a variety of statistics. They also go a long way towards explaining whether the publishing industry’s current difficulties are intrinsic or extrinsic in origin. The authors strive to find new perspectives to get away from a fear of the online world. The renewable publishing and reading culture envisioned by the authors will benefit from the novelty and efficiency of electronic publishing and will reinforce traditional knowledge. Professor Kai Ekholm is the Director of the National Library of Finland; Yrjö Repo is a researcher and statistician.

Helsinki Book Fair: 28–31 October

22 October 2010 | In the news

Looking for books: Helsinki Book Fair (Photo:The Finnish Fair Corporation, 2009)

The tenth Helsinki Book Fair takes place in Helsinki’s Exhibition & Convention Centre over the last weekend of October. More than 1,000 writers, artists, scientists, politicians and specialists will participate in the programme. There are more than fifty authors from 17 countries, among them the British historian Antony Beevor, the Estonian writer Jaan Kaplinski and the Indian writer Kishwar Desai.

The theme country this year is France, and among the French guests will be the novelists Andreï Makine and Nicolas Fargues, the fantasy writer Pierre Pével and the poets Sophie Loizeau, Hélène Sanguinetti and Gabriel Mwènè Okoundji, originally from Congo.

The translator Anne Colin du Terrail will talk to the writers Leena Lehtolainen and Johanna Sinisalo whose work she has translated into French.

Comics and graphic novels as well as poetry are also in the focus at this year’s Book Fair: approximately 70 Finnish and foreign poets feature in readings, interviews and nonstop performances.

In 2009 a record-breaking number of visitors – almost 77,000 – attended the Book Fair. It seems the autumnal Fair is a handy chance to many to buy Christmas presents, among other things; at least last year three out of four said they had come to buy books (and not just spot celebrities, for example).

This time, in addition to books, the visitors to the Exhibition & Convention Centre will be able to attend two other Fairs, entitled Wine, Food and Good Living and Music Fair as well.