In its global book sales review for 2020, the Bookseller reported that in spite of "vast cultural differences, there were commonalities across Nielsen BookScan's five-continent-spanning international territories last year, with readers--as they did in Britain--[turning] to fiction, children's books and self-help/wellbeing titles to help them through a difficult 12 months."
Ireland "was the star of the BookScan global league table, with a pandemic-defying boom and its highest sales total in 12 years," the Bookseller noted. Euro sales rose 9.5% in 2020, while unit sales climbed 7.8%. New Zealand's unit sales "were flat year on year, which scans, given the country's much-praised management of the crisis."
Other results from Nielsen's largest overseas markets included Italy (units -16.4%, value n/a), Australia (units +8.9%, value +7.8%), Spain (units -11.6%, value -0.8%), Brazil (units +4.4%, value +2.9%), India (units -3.8%, value +5.5%) and Mexico (units -12.1%, value -6.8%)
Independent bookstores in Southeast Asia, "just as elsewhere, are under threat due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has depressed sales, even as they face stiff competition from online book retailers such as Amazon, and expanding corporate book chains," Nikkei Asia reported, adding that the damage is already evident in the region, "where bookstores are needed more than ever as governments increasingly resort to authoritarian measures that threaten to stifle creativity. Even a local corporate franchise like Singapore-based Popular had to shut all 16 Hong Kong outlets in March."
Kenny Leck, owner of the internationally renowned indie Books Actually, closed his physical store after 15 years and took his operation fully online. "We closed the physical space because after two months of lockdown [due to Covid-19], online sales are now doing better than we ever did in the bookstore," he said.
While Gerakbudaya Bookshop, Penang, Malaysia, "remains a crossroads where writers and artists can make meaningful connections with local and visiting intellectuals, forming ties that not only reach across the region, but around the world," Gerakbudaya bookstore and publisher (a separate entity from its Penang namesake) in Kuala Lumpur "has asked readers to buy its books to shore up declining business," Nikkei Asia wrote.
Although selling books online may help indie bookstores weather the pandemic, "no online experience can duplicate the feeling of visiting a curated bookstore, asking a bookseller for advice and, most importantly, meeting like-minded individuals," Nikkei Asia noted. "Physical bookstores have a captivating power to turn cultural differences into a common love of knowledge--a solid base for any healthy society. But if these special spaces disappear from Southeast Asia's booming cities, the region's creative freedom and inspiration will face an even rougher ride."
|Louise and Gareth Ward
New Zealand booksellers Gareth and Louise Ward, two former cops who own Wardini Books in Havelock North and Napier, "met in the police force in the U.K. and moved to N.Z. in 2007," Stuff reported.
"Gareth and I have always supported one another," Louise Ward said. "If a change needs to be made, then we will do it. I'm more impulsive and he'll be the one considering the consequences. But we don't muck around because life is short. It's an attitude we've developed together over 25 years.... Gareth has always written stories. After we got to New Zealand, he entered the Tessa Duder Award and he got a publishing contract with Walker Books. He writes steampunk fiction for teens and tweens, but just like the Harry Potter books, adults like them too."
Gareth Ward observed: "Louise runs the bookshops and everyone affectionately calls her The Boss. It's been very challenging with Covid and the supply problems, but she handles it so well. She does all the book buying but I'll sit in on the meetings. I'm slightly more cautious, so she pushes me to do things, which is good. But both of us always feel the worst thing would be to think: 'What if I, or we, didn't do that and regretted it later?' We've always tried to do new and different things. She's also given me the freedom to step away from the bookshop and really go for it with my writing." --Robert Gray