The Greek publishers in times of crisis and capital controls: issues, trends and prospects

Photo of Greek book shop or library

As part of the Greek participation in the 67th International Frankfurt Book Fair (Hall5.1, Stand E 131), we present a brief survey entitled “The Greek publishers in times of crisis and capital controls: issues, trends and prospects” prepared by the Association of Book Publishers (S.EK.B). under the auspices and with the support of Hellenic Foundation for Culture (HFC).

This survey is a first impression of the current state of the book publishing sector in Greece, as it has developed over the last two years (abolition of the Law 2557/1997 on fixed book prices, the VAT increase from 6.5% to 23 % on production, capital controls, etc.). In a fluid economic, institutional and political environment Greeks publishers are trying to tackle the consequences of the crisis, to find solid footing and new development strategies. The purpose of the study is to highlight issues related inter alia with the transition of the industry to the digital age. Finally, this research aims to become the beginning of a fruitful dialogue, which will contribute to the normalization of the existing situation and the diffusion of the Greek book in the domestic and international environment.

This study (quantitative using a structured questionnaire) is divided into two main parts: a) Economic environment, publishing production and market and b) Editorial policy and new development strategies


The first part of the research, concerning the economic environment, publishing production and the market reflected a significant drop in sales volume and book production. It is characteristic that the sales volume in 2014 compared to 2013 was reduced for 71% of the publishers, unchanged for 11% and increased for 18%. Additionally, in the same timeframe, the publishers reduced production of new titles by 40 %. The situation appears to be worse in the first half of 2015, with 73% of the publishers finding their sales volume reduced, while the drop in sales volume after the introduction of capital controls (July 2015) for most of the publishers is between 20% and 50%.

Consequently, the shrinkage of the sales volume in 2015 also led to a reduction in book production. Accordingly, 64% of publishers plan to reduce the production of new titles until the end of 2015. Furthermore, publishers have adopted various practices, in order to cope with the difficult economic circumstances. Apart from the reduction of production (64%), publishers have also implemented: offers and sales (55%), a more careful selection of new titles (47%), cutting of permanent personnel’s salaries (26%), as well as reduction of the permanent personnel itself (24%). The main source of income for the Greek publishing field is derived from translated works of foreign writers (58%), while the main volume of book sales is effected through bookshops, both chain (38%) and independent bookshops (38%) – including brick and mortar as well as e-shops.



The second part of the research is related to editorial policy and the new strategies of development in this field. The Greek publishers have ranked the problems they are facing, ranked most important of all by 78% is the VAT rise from 6.5% to 23% on all stages of book production. Ranked second (76%) is the lack of the market liquidity, readers’ reduction of purchasing power (69%), and the absence of a single-price policy for books (49%). Consequently, as the most important policies for the normalization of the existing situation, the publishers have ranked the following: the existence of a friendly tax environment for the publishing industry (67%), and the reinstatement of Law 2557/1997 for the fixed price on books (51%).

The research concerning new development strategies and the transition to a digital environment shows that 71% of the publishers intends to adopt strategies that line up with the technological changes and the digital environment, while another 66% believes that the digital transition is mainly related to the digitalization of content and the production of eBooks. 36% of publishers is looking to new digital channels for promotion and sales of printed books, and a similar number lists digital communication and networking with readers. It is noteworthy that, although the economic crisis suspended the plans for the digital transition of 58% of publishers, at the same time, the economic crisis is a factor in the acceleration of the digital transition for 27% of the publishers. Furthermore, the Greek publishers believe that the digital changes occurring worldwide in the field are a challenge (36%) as well as a necessity (29%). With regard to eBooks in the Greek market, the 62% of publishers has not started producing eBooks. However, 59% intends to include eBook sin the publishing production within the next two years. Finally, when ranking the relevance of causes for the low market penetration of eBooks, the publishers’ replies appear to be extremely divided. Indicatively, 24% believes the price and the high VAT are an inhibitory factor, while roughly the same percentage (22%) of publishers considers the economic crisis, the lack of investment as well as their reservations about eBooks as a product, extremely important causes that prevent the penetration of eBooks in the Greek market.

In conclusion, the research puts into relief the difficult situation, in which the Greek publishers find themselves, in a time of economic crisis. On the other hand, they have every intention, if a more conducive economic and institutional environment should emerge, to move forward and develop new strategies that will boost the Greek publishing field. A more detailed analysis will be presented at the next Thessaloniki Book Fair (12-15 May 2016).

(research editor: Panagiotis Kapos – Philologist / Ph.D candidate in Communication, Media and Culture, Panteion University)



The most important issues that concern the Greek book publishing field today are the following:

  • The rise of the VAT from 6.5% to 23% on all
  • stages of book production (78%)
  • Lack of market liquidity (76%)
  • Reduction of the readers’ purchasing power (69%)
  • Absence of a fixed-price policy for books (49%)
  • Absence of a national publishing policy (47%)

The normalisation policies that could provide solutions to the field’s problems rank as follows:

  • Friendly environment for the publishing industry (67%)
  • Reinstatement of Law 2557/1997 for the fixed price on books (51%)
  • Strengthening of programs that encourage reading, at the local and national level (47%)
  • Existence of a state organisation, exclusively concerned with books and reading (44%)
  • Strengthening and modernisation of the libraries (45%)


The ranking of the causes for the almost nonexistent penetration of eBooks in the Greek publishing market:

  • Price of the eBooks and high VAT (24%)
  • Economic crisis and lack of investment(22%)
  • Readers not being ready to accept eBooks (22%)
  • Publishers’ reservations about eBooks as a product(22%)
  • Distribution, promotion and sales issues (20%)

(the data is presented in ranking order, according to the rankings of the publishers on the Likert scale – these are the 5 most popular replies)

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