Tag Archives: IPA

China is the largest book market in the world: together with USA, more than half of all titles published


China has rapidly become the largest market for books in the world. Of all the 1.6 million new book titles published in 2015, 28% of them were published in China. The second largest market, the U.S., published 20% of new titles launched to the global markets in 2015.

The vast population of China, more than one billion, explains part of the success of books in the country, but it is not the whole story. India’s population is roughly at the same level as China’s population, but India is nowhere near China when the number of published books are considered.

China has very quickly developed from a primarily farming society into an industrial society that is rapidly turning into a new technology powerhouse. That requires masses of well educated engineers, managers, and marketers. Books are a great way to learn, and of course, be entertained.

Book statistics have been published by the International Publishers Association (IPA). The numbers come from publishers, and don’t include self-published titles.

Below a graph by Quartz that shows the number of new book titles published in each in 2015:

book titles published by country. Source IPA, graph Quartz
The relative importance of books, or how the society values books, in each society can be studied by dividing the number of citizens by the number of new titles. Now, the story is completely different. European countries rise on top. Top 10 of published titles per million inhabitants is all European countries, followed by the U.S.

UK, France, and Spain export plenty of books to other countries where English, French or Spanish is spoken, but why are Scandinavian countries so high in the top 10? Every Scandinavian country has its own language, making each market small. Book industry is a subsidized business in these countries. Authors may get allowances, translators may receive grants, and value added taxes for books are lower than for other products.

books published per million inhabitants by country, source IPA.

Taxman’s position on ebooks and printed books varies across the world


In large parts of the world, only the air you breathe is tax-free. Everything else tends to come with some sort of tax component (I learned this at Venice, Italy where someone was selling ad-supported free maps). The curious thing is that tax systems vary across the world, and even within a country. For instance, in Norway you pay zero value added tax for a printed travel guide of Oslo, but 25% VAT for the same product as an ebook.

In many markets, publishing professionals regard that the higher VAT for ebooks is preventing the new digital economy to flourish. In any case, it doesn’t make sense to tax a modern product that saves trees and transportation costs at a higher rate than a traditional product. In EU, France and Luxemburg have actively tried to lower ebook VAT rates for a couple of years. In 2015, also Germany, Italy and Poland pushed EU to allow lower tax rates for ebooks.

Nonetheless, there are countries that don’t tax ebooks at all, whereas majority of countries apply higher VAT for ebooks than for printed books. Two publishers’ associations, IPA and FEP, mapped out the real situation of VAT policies across the world for ebooks and printed books.

vat rates for ebooks, survey by IPA and FEP
Purple: Zero rate of VAT/GST for ebooks.
Orange: Reduced rate of VAT/GST for ebooks.
Red: Standard rate of VAT/GST for ebooks.
Green: No VAT regime.

Highlights from the survey by IPA and FEP:

  • Worldwide, only 22% of countries apply the standard rate of VAT to printed books, while a large majority of nations (69%) apply standard VAT to e-books.
  • 37 countries apply the same rate of VAT/GST to print and e-books.
  • 35 countries apply a higher rate of VAT/GST to e-books than to print.
  • 4 countries (5%) apply a reduced rate of VAT to e-books.
  • The average VAT/GST rate applied to printed books is 5.75%.
  • The average VAT/GST rate applied to e-books is 12.25%.
  • Standard VAT rates in Asia (8.6%) are significantly lower than in Europe (21%).
  • The majority of African countries surveyed (8 out of 13) have zero-rate VAT on printed books.
  • Denmark applies the highest VAT rate on printed books (25%).
  • Hungary applies the highest VAT rate on e-books (27%).
  • Find all the details of the survey here.

    Publishing professionals in 79 countries were interviewed for the survey. 36 of them were in Europe, 13 in Asia, 13 in Africa, 9 in Latin America, 5 in the Middle East, plus Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The United States was not included in the survey because each state has its own sales tax regime.

    The survey was conducted by two publishing organizations: IPA and FEP. The International Publishers Association (IPA) is a federation of national, regional and specialist publishers’ associations. More than 60 organisations from more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas are members. The Federation of European Publishers (FEP) is a non-commercial umbrella association of book publishers associations in the European Union.