Nine features of the Ukrainian book market

Dana Pavlychko, Head of the Osnovy publishing house, compares the Ukrainian book market to the international market and discusses the changes taking place in the industry

1. People do not pay for content. I, who basically buy everything, am the exception. Most people around me download literature online. On the one hand, this is piracy and, on the other, an ordinary aversion to spending money. But I am confident that the habit of behaving differently will take root; there is already demand for this. People are gradually realising that content should be bought. Apple music, which has entered the Ukrainian market, may be said to be evidence of that. Who would have thought that people here would buy music when everything is available on social media? The arrival of such a corporation in Ukraine means that our market has been evaluated as an interesting and profitable one. This is a good sign. Here, a parallel can be drawn with the book market. It is clear to me that there is already demand for light, aesthetically pleasing, quality access to content for which people are willing to pay. 

2. Buying a book does not mean reading it. Over the past 25 years, reading and education have depreciated tremendously. Just look at our universities, which do not give access to world databases of academic resources, and do not purchase books for their libraries. And this is no longer a matter of state funding, but a question of will that is only focused on taking bribes from students. No-one wants to change. For it is simpler to print the lecturers’ textbooks, sell them to students and give the same lectures that have been given for the last 20 years.


3. People do not give each other books as gifts. Books were always considered to be the perfect gift. But people now laugh at this phrase. Society values easy money. The values promoted by many Ukrainians are not to work, obtain a budget and steal. There is no place for books in such a vision. But the situation is slowly changing. 

4. The market is on the threshold of a qualitative change. When you walk into a bookstore in the West, you are immediately struck by the stunning level of visual aesthetics and design as well as the vast array of interesting books at the intersection of many different fields. To think out of the box is the main trend. Ukraine still has a long way to go when it comes to this. For a start, we need to learn how to make something fundamental. At least, start by publishing the Ukrainian classics in a beautiful way. 

5. Many books that our students need like the air they breathe are not translated into Ukrainian. An example? For example... everything. There are no quality Ukrainian publications in marketing, sociology or economics.  


6. Our readers are very interested in self-help books. Agents representing Western publishers have noted an interesting detail: the Ukrainian and Chinese markets simply “devour” self-help books. Even now everyone wants to know everything and instantly. It’s the same as getting rich instantly... Nevertheless, there are quality books in the range of such literature and we plan to publish them. But again, we come back to the fact that there should be an academic base for a start. Growing solely on the basis of such a genre is impossible.

7. Ukrainian children’s literature is actively developing. Until recently we did not have literature for teenagers, but this market has begun to move in the last two years. There are serious players now: The Old Lion Publishing House, Laurus and Nash Format. It is important to understand that we publishers cannot live without one another. Competition will make all of us better and the buyer will receive a better product.


8. The Ukrainian market is difficult to estimate. But it is growing, by an average of three to five percent a year. Around 70% of books come from Russia. All the stirring of controversy regarding this only serves populists. I speak as a representative of the business who suffers from the domination of books from the Russian Federation. Calling for bans does not require much brain. They don’t work. These are medieval methods. People who call for bans, welcome to 2016! 

9. The Book Arsenal is a civilised Ukrainian success. Great respect for curator Olya Zhuk and the entire Art Arsenal team. It is not only a beautiful space and fair, but also a centre for education programmes, art trends, and children’s trends. And all of this is of the highest level. I look forward to each and every Arsenal.

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