Tag Archives: USA

Tips to Mr Putin and Mr Trump for interacting with the local tribe in Helsinki, Finland

2018-07-15

Presidents Trump and Putin are due for a tête-à-tête in Helsinki on 16 July, 2018, a summit in which national security issues and alleged Russian interference in the US elections of 2016 are likely to be hot topics. The two leaders have missed me by a year. I was in the Finnish capital in the summer of 2017 – not to mention the previous autumn – as part of the journey which has resulted in my newly published ebook, The Honest Tribe: Travels in Finland.

Esplanade Park in summer. Helsinki, Finland. Esplanade Park in Helsinki, Finland.

Too bad, gentlemen. Our paths are not to cross, and I know you’re cursing your luck. During my time in Finland I picked up more than a few snippets of information on the Finns and their metropolis, and we could have lounged in a Helsinki bar, drinks in hand, while I filled you in on a few points that even your advisors might know little of. Following that, I would have shown you something of the city.

Had we met for a drink in Helsinki, I trust Mr Trump, with his vast personal wealth, would have stood me a beer or two. My teacher’s salary doesn’t extend to prolonged stays in Finnish bars, and, with measly quantities of beer on sale for the best part of ten euros a time, many Finns also feel the pecuniary pain of alcohol consumption, not least in the pricy pubs of the capital.

According to some, this is a historically rooted ploy on the part of the Finnish establishment and designed to keep the country’s working class sober enough for their labours. With his Soviet past, Mr Putin might be inclined to agree. Had we drunk together in Helsinki, he might have refused Finnish beer on the grounds of its (supposed) exploitative, capitalist associations. Or that may have been an excuse to partake of vodka, a drink much loved in his home country.

Helsinki’s cafés and restaurants have offered me similar insights into Finnish life. Mr Trump is no doubt accustomed to high levels of customer care in American eateries – ‘Hi, my name’s Jenny and I’ll be your server today’ – and is likely to encounter similar standards in their Finnish equivalents, though with one notable exception. It was in a café on Suomenlinna, the island off Helsinki’s coastline, that I was told by the girl at the counter to fill my cup myself. She indicated cups, tea bags and an urn of hot water behind me.

‘Beware Finland’s DIY cafés,’ I might have warned my presidential companions as we staggered away from our Helsinki bar in search of a cappuccino or an Earl Grey. Mr Trump would have been appalled, even incredulous, and might have dismissed my caveat as fake news. Mr Putin may have been equally disbelieving, but I could have convinced him with a tall tale. ‘It’s for the protection of Finnish citizens. So a Russian agent can’t slip poison into their drink. Remember Alexander Litvinenko?’
Suomenlinna fortress, Helsinki. Suomenlinna fortress, Helsinki.

Fortified with beer, and tea or coffee, Donald, Vladimir and I might have perambulated around Helsinki, in search of a little culture. The city’s famed Lutheran cathedral would have been a must-see, and, once we’d negotiated a route through the groups of young people who perpetually congregate on its steps, we’d have found ourselves within its calming but plain interior.

The plainness might not have suited Mr Putin, more accustomed as he is to the ornate and gilded interiors of Russian Orthodox churches. Silvio Berlusconi, the notorious Italian politician, once commented of an eighteenth-century wooden Finnish church he’d been shown that in his own country it would have been bulldozed. So it is with the Latins and Slavs, who revel in the decorative and effusive.

No so the Finns. In the early stages of The Honest Tribe I comment that my assessment of Finland could be summed up in the words ‘clean, unfancy and efficient’. And those attributes are fine with me, as, I suspect, they are with Mr Trump. Indeed the American president has Lutheran roots on his father’s side of the family, so he might have felt at home in Helsinki Cathedral. He’d have nodded with approval, I’m sure, as I indicated its statue of the redoubtable Martin Luther. Mr Putin might have grown bored and impatient, seeing his surroundings as dourly Protestant. But Donald and I wouldn’t have minded – as long as Vladimir didn’t phone for a bulldozer.

‘Don’t mention the war!’ John Cleese famously enjoined in an episode of Fawlty Towers, the popular British comedy series of the 1970s. Finns, however, are inclined to refer to the conflicts of the twentieth century all too often, at least for the sensibilities of Russians, who received the run-around from militarily slick Finnish forces in the short-lived Winter War of 1939-40. Finns take pride in the sacrifices their people made in the 1940s and some see the period as being fundamental to the formation of the modern Finnish national character.

As Stalin received a bloody nose at the hands of Finnish forces, it might have been politic for me to steer both Vladimir and Donald away from the Helsinki museum devoted to the life of Carl Gustav Mannerheim, the Finns’ celebrated military leader of the war years. Both Trump and Putin are not slow to voice their opinions, and a visit to the Mannerheim Museum might have riled the latter, and even led to a stirring-up of old Cold War enmities between the pair.

So perhaps we’d have simply strolled the streets of Helsinki, or spent time shopping or eating salmon dishes at the shoreline market place. Given the innumerable visitors that congregate there both presidents might have expressed a fear of pickpockets. I could have countered their concerns with a mention of the Reader’s Digest experiment of a few years ago in which the magazine’s staff planted ‘lost’ wallets around cities worldwide to see how many might be returned to their ‘owners’. Helsinki came out top of the honesty stakes.

All this, of course, is a ‘might have been’. My time in Finland predated theirs by twelve months, and Presidents Trump and Putin missed out on spending time with me in Helsinki. But gentlemen, don’t despair. The Honest Tribe: Travels in Finland is available now, so reach for your wallets. If you’re in Finland, at your summit, as you read this, they’re likely to be safe and sound in your pockets.

This guest post was written by Max Boyle.

book cover image: The Honest Tribe by Max Boyle

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

2017-08-20

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.

Digital Book Revenues Accounted for 35% of the UK Publishing Market in 2014

2015-05-12

The UK Publishers Association has tallied up the numbers for the book market in the United Kingdom in 2014, and the results are pleasant reading for ebook publishers, but not so for print book publishers. Revenues from digital products accounted for 35% of the total market in the UK in 2014. The total market was GBP 4.3 billion, down 2% from previous year. The rapid growth in sales of ebooks couldn’t compensate the decline of printed books in the UK.

Highlights from the Publishers Association report:

– Fiction is still the hottest ebook category with sales increasing to 37% of total ebook market value.
– Children’s books (up 36%) – with the sector up 11% overall.
– Academic textbooks (up 17%) now at 24% of sector sales.
– Audiobook downloads up 24% from previous year.
– Educational materials for schools up 20%.

Apple iPad, ebook, eyeglasses, books,

We have been closely following the ebook market for five years (Klaava Media is a non-fiction ebook publisher), and it still hasn’t stopped surprising us. A year ago, growth in the U.S., the ebook market leader showed first signs of slowing down. Early 2015 proved it to be worse than that, because ebook revenues decreased for the first time since 2007.

In other parts of the world, however, it is completely different situation. In many countries, annual ebook growth numbers are huge, because digital market share from total book market can be anywhere from 1 to 10%. Countries, such as Germany, Netherlands and France are now experiencing high growth rates because large product selection in digital format is available for readers and competing retail systems, like Amazon, Apple iBooks, Google Play and Tolino fight for digital customers.

Why is the US ebook market so different to the rest of the world?

Some analysts have already voted for the return of agency pricing in the US that has caused somewhat higher prices, slowing down sales of ebooks. We don’t believe it is the reason for the US market setback. The real reason is a natural cycle of the new, strongly developing tech/media market.

First wave:
Amazon Kindle ereader started this wave in 2007. It was a new device designed solely for reading ebooks. The Kindle and low-cost Kindle ebooks were the reason why the first wave was successful in the English-language markets. Since then, many other E ink ereader brands have been introduced, but the sales of pure ereader devices have been declining for some time already.

Second wave:
Tablets and phablets. More and more people are enjoying digital books because they are able to read books on a tablet or on a large-screen smartphone they already have. Outside English-language markets, the growth of ebooks really took off with tablets and it continues with the success of phablets.

Third wave:
Ebooks will develop further. Currently, ebooks are more or less just like their print book cousins, only the layout may slightly differ. Especially, non-fiction books, textbooks, academic books, and online publications will benefit from the new possibilities digital technology allows for books, such as video, audio, and interactivity.

EPUB3, Apple iBooks and to some extent Kindle book formats already allow creating such books, but compatibility with reader devices and apps is poor at the moment. This is where we will see all kinds of successful and less successful trials in the next few years. Some of them will stick and show the way to the future of book.

The U.S., UK or any other market hasn’t yet moved to the third wave (or beyond). When it happens, expect strong growth for media we used to call books.