Literature has a major impact on the Finnish culture. The world’s leading school system guarantees that all adults in Finland are literate. Promoting reading, which is important for maintaining literacy, is constantly stressed. Public libraries have a wide selection of books and charge no fees for borrowing. Literature is available to everyone, either to buy or to borrow at the local library. The population of Finland is 5.3 million; about 300,000 have Swedish as their mother tongue.
Finns read proportionately more than many other people. According to a recent study, Suomi Lukee (Finland Reads), 33 percent of 15-79 year old Finns read books monthly, and 77 percent had bought at least one book during the past year. Sixteen percent of Finns buy over ten books a year. Private people use their own money to buy more than 22 million books every year, either for themselves or as gifts to others. Print runs are relatively short, which presents pricing and royalty problems.
About 40 percent of the total number of books printed in Finland is sold by bookstores (about 300). Compared to the population, the Finnish bookstore network is still one of the most extensive in the world, although most of the stores are small. About half of their sales come from books, the remainder from other items. In addition, books are sold at hundreds of kiosks and other outlets. Five book clubs, owned by the major publishers, have seen their market shares remain steady in recent years.
The proportion of electronic books is slowly increasing in Finland. The number of reading devices is estimated at 30,000-50,000 and is expected to grow. Men read e-books more often than women. Value added tax (VAT) is an issue because it is 23 percent compared to VAT on printed books that is 9 percent.
The main distributor and wholesaler in Finland is Kirjavalitys Oy, jointly owned by publishers and bookshops. Booksellers can order books from all regular publishers in Finland from the company. The database of Kirjavalitys Oy contains nearly 100,000 titles. The company handles about 30 percent of all books sold in Finland. Book sales account for 90 percent of its turnover, the rest comprises of sales of maps, calendars, audiovisual products, CD-ROMs, and services.
Other distributors include media company Sanoma’s Werner Söderström Ltd (WSOY) Kirjakeskus, which primarily supplies books by publishers belonging to WSOY Group and Tammi Group, and KustannusTaito Forlagssystem Finland Ab, which supplies mainly books by Swedish language publishers. Recently Sanoma sold WSOY to Swedish peer Bonnier. Bonnier said in a statement that as part of the transaction, and subject to regulatory approval, Sanoma would acquire educational publishers Tammi Learning and Bonnier Utbildning from Bonnier.
Current Market Trends
The Finnish Book Publishers Association has 100 members. They account for about 80 percent of commercially published titles and over 90 percent of book sales in Finland. The association’s members publish more than 7,000 new titles a year, over half of which are new titles. Total sales were 268 million Euros ($392 million) in 2009.
The sales of encyclopedias and large reference books have decreased. The cause for this is assumed to be the increased availability of information on the Internet. The proportions of non-fiction and children's and juvenile books as well as comics have also decreased.