[Feature] Korea's Book Publishing Industry in Dire Predicament | Be Korea-savvy

[Feature] Korea’s Book Publishing Industry in Dire Predicament

Is the overall decline of book market attributable to “women-dominant publishing market?”(image: Kobizmedia/ Korea Bizwire)

SEOUL, May 18 (Korea Bizwire) – Why boys are turning to online games rather than spending time with books? As with this question, boys are increasingly attracted to “masculine” features of games at the expense of “feminine” book-reading time; Boys are being deterred from reading because the “gatekeepers” to children’s literature are mainly women, argues Jonathan Emmett from UK, author of the Princess and the Pig, according to an article from the Times.

The author explains the majority of publishers, editors, librarians, judges and reviewers of children’s books were women, and this is exacerbating the literacy gap between the sexes. No wonder the dwindling number of book readers and reduced income of the publishers and bookstores alike.

And a new report released on May 12, seemed to corroborate the widespread phenomenon regarding children’s staying away from book-reading habit. According to Common Sense Media, San Francisco-based nonprofit organization,  American children still spend a part of their day reading but the time spent is much less than what they did a decade ago.

The report revealed that while in 1984, 81 percent of nine-year-olds read for pleasure once or more in a week, in 2013 this dropped to 76 percent. Among older children this decrease was even larger.

The organization say, kids are not choosing reading for the purpose of pleasure.  About a third of 13-year-olds and almost half of 17-year-olds reported in one study that they read for pleasure less than twice a year.

Naturally, the lackluster performances of the publishers and bookstores were direct results of reduced spending by book-reading consumers.(image: Kobizmedia/ Korea Bizwire)

 That the publishing industry is struggling is no news at all. In Korea, eight out of ten publishers last year saw their profitability worsen. According to a report “2013 Publishing Market Statistics” released by the Korean Publishing Copyright Research Institute on May 15, only 19.8 percent of publishing firms witnessed their financial results improve in the year.

 The report was based on financial statement data on 81 publishing houses and seven large bookstores made available by the electronic disclosure system of the Financial Supervisory Service. By segment, textbooks and study guide books recorded better year-on-year results in terms of sales revenue, operating profit, and operating profit ratio.

As for books, the publishers and bookstores posted worsen financial results in terms of sales revenue, operating profit, and operating profit ratio than the year before.

Minumsa Publishing Group, one of the largest local publishers, recorded the first-ever operating loss since 2003 when it began disclosing audit reports. Even though its sales revenue rose 11.3 percent from 2012, its operating profit turned to the red due to lower profitability from price cutting competition and higher marketing expenses.

The aggregate sales revenue of seven large-scale bookstores that made their financial performances public, including Kyobo Books, Yes24, Interpark INT, Aladin Communications, Youngpoong Bookstore, Bandi & Luni’s, and Libro, was 1,677.2 billion won in 2013, up 0.4 percent from the previous year. Their operating profit fell 56.5 percent to only 7.0 billion won. Accordingly their operating profit ratio dropped to the level of 0.4 percent from 1.0 percent in 2012.

Kyobo Books, Korea’s largest bookstore with both online and brick-and-mortar operations, reported that its sales declined 3.7 percent, the first time in four years, with an operating loss in three years. The operating profit ratio also turned to a negative figure of -1.0 percent.

Naturally, the lackluster performances of the publishers and bookstores were direct results of reduced spending by book-reading consumers. According to the National Statistical Office, the book sales amount through online booksellers and shopping malls was 1,196.2 billion won in 2013, down 6.0 percent from the previous year, the record-low figure.

The average spending on books by households with more than two family members was 16,878 won a month last year, also down 5.0 percent from 2012. According to the Korea Federation of Bookstore Association, the number of bookstores across the country 1,625 as of 2013, 7.2 percent lower than that in 2011 at 1,498.

A researcher at the Korean Publishing Copyright Research Institute who was the principal author of the report said, “The situation for small publishers and bookstores are much worse than the larger brethren. The government’s massive support measures, as well as the self-help effort within the publishing industry, are urgently called for. In addition, the publishers need to reform the whole structure of book production, distribution, and retail.”

Written by Jerry M. Kim (jerrykim@koreabizwire.com)

Contributed by Sean Chung (schung10@koreabizwire.com)

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