Publishers in the Baltics: Differing Expectations for a Pandemic Recovery

From Publishing Perspectives:

While a Latvian publisher seems encouraged, a counterpart in Estonia is less upbeat. And Russia’s LitRes is eyeing the region for its digital-sales potential in ebooks and audio.

. . . .

[T]he Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees Latvia (population 1.9 million) with 2,194 cases and 40 deaths. In Estonia (population 1.4 million), there are 3,659 cases reported, with 67 fatalities. And in Lithuania (population 2.8 million), Johns Hopkins has registered 5,366 cases and 99 deaths.

. . . .

[P]ublishers in the Baltics say they feel optimistic that they’re seeing recovery from the economic impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The book markets of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, they say, are seeing resumed growth of sales and levels of book production.

Olegs Mihalevics is the chair of Apgads Kontinents in Riga, one of Latvia’s publishing houses. In comments to Publishing Perspectives, Mihalevics says that most books in the region still are sold in traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores. That, of course, means that sales sharply declined during the period of March to June when the most stringent efforts were levied by the Baltic governments to contain the spread of the virus.

Recovery from the shuttering of physical points of sale began in the summer.

“Since June,” Mihalevics says, “consumer traffic in the book stores of Latvia has been steadily growing.

“In June itself, book sales increased by 10 percent compared to June 2019. One of the reasons for this was unusually cold temperatures, along with public events being restricted throughout the Baltics.

“At the moment, the market continues an active recovery, parallel to our regional economics. Doctors and teachers–who form the majority of book buyers in our region–have begun to receive increased wages, a good sign for us, with consumers showing more confidence.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

For those who are a bit hazy about the Baltic States – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – the Baltic Sea separates the southern part of Sweden (including Stockholm) from Europe. The Baltic States are lined up on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea east of Sweden and south of Finland.

Map via Wikipedia

Unfortunately for the inhabitants of the Baltic States, their eastern borders are with the former Soviet Union, now the nations of Russia and Belarus. The closest major cities not across the Baltic Sea are St. Petersburg and Minsk, now the capital of Belarus.

During the first twenty-two years of the 20th Century, the Baltic States were controlled by Russia or Germany, with control of the individual Baltic countries sometimes divided geographically between Russian and German occupation.

The Russian Revolution and the collapse of the German empire allowed the three Baltic states to find a precarious path to independence by 1922. However, life in the shadow of The Soviet Union under Stalin and his successors would not have been completely free from cares and worries.

PG concludes that the doctors and teachers in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia must really like to read books in their native languages to have allowed publishers to survive in these three nations.

Compared to what the people in these nations have already survived, COVID-19 is a walk in the park.

6 thoughts on “Publishers in the Baltics: Differing Expectations for a Pandemic Recovery”

  1. I’m married to a fellow descended from Lithuanians who emigrated in the early 1900s to escape the Russians to the coal regions of eastern Pennsylvania (following, for this particular town (Shenandoah), in the footsteps of the Irish, the Welsh, the Polacks, etc… It was a very mixed-ethnic community in a hard-drinking, hard-fighting town (c.f., the Molly Maguires)).

    He is very history & genealogy-minded, and some of it has rubbed off on me. I found the history of eastern Europe very eye-opening, something that somehow is never covered in schools.

    • A good portion of the alternate history 163x series from BAEN is set in eastern Europe and deals with the politics of tbe era both pre-Ring of Fire (the series’s trigger event) and post disruption.
      Several historians are involved in tbe shared universe of tbe series as the premise seems to have tickled their fancy. Each has claimed a different region.

      Educational as well as entertaining.
      Especially the ones involving Ruthenia, Bohemia, The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Russia. (Boris, Natasha, and a flying squirrel figure in the latter volumes.)
      Hard to believe anybody thought you could run a stable society with tbose rules. 🙂

      A couple of the volumes are free.
      The rest are reasonably priced.

      • I read and enjoyed the first several Ring of Fire books but got bogged down in the multiple authors/multiple storyline issues. (I also play Swedish folk music, and the Sweden-Poland interactions are right in my musical sweet spot…)

        “Hard to believe anybody thought you could run a stable society with those rules.” Well, yes. The much prized “veto” held by the nobles in the Lithuanian Commonwealth ultimately made government too ineffective (and me, a Libertarian, saying that). That wasn’t the only problem, of course, but it contributed.

        • I hear you.
          I’m no fan of centralized government power but there’s a certain minimum needed to maintain cohesion and get anything done, as tbe Articles of Confederation proved and the EU is proving right now.

          Total local control is as bad as total centralization.
          The trick is distributing power so the issues are dealt with at the right level.
          Too bad most people out there don’t get it.

    • Karen – speaking of family history and genealogy, one of my wife’s grandfathers was born in Russia, but the place of his birth was a big family secret for many years.

      His parents, who emigrated from Russia to Seattle in the early 20th century for some reason told their very young son, nicknamed Heinie, that he was born in Seattle. According to their story, the hospital where he was born burned down and his birth records were destroyed. He tried to obtain a US passport on several occasions, but was his applications were always rejected because of a lack of birth records.

      My wife finally learned the big secret, but not the reason why it was secret, from an older relative after her grandfather’s death.

      His family was of German ancestry. There’s an area in the Volga River valley where a lot of German emigrants settled while Catherine the Great, who was originally from Germany, was Empress of Russia and among whom German continued to be the common language into some time in the early 20th century. Supposedly, there are still a few German-speakers there. You can imagine that they didn’t have a very easy life during World War II and the aftermath.

      Grandpa Heinie’s father was an alcoholic who threw him out of the house when he was about eight years old. Heinie hung around the back door of a local Seattle bakery so he could get the unsold day-old bread which was being tossed into the garbage early each morning so he had something to eat. After getting to know Heine because he was waiting at the back door each morning, the baker eventually gave the boy a job helping out in the bakery and a place to sleep.

      Grandpa Heinie worked in the bakery for several years, learning the business, but never attending school. He saved up enough money to start a bakery of his own in a small town near the coast in Southwestern Washington and prospered, even through the Depression, when all the other bakeries in town closed.

      Heine made enough money so he could buy a boat that PG guesses was about 40 feet in length from old family film footage so he could take his wife and daughter out on pleasure and fishing rides. As he became more confident of his seamanship, he and his wife took longer boat trips, including going through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean and back.

      Evidently, Heinie figured out that he could travel using his own boat to at least some other countries and return back to his home port in Washington without having to show a passport.

      In addition to the boat and long boat trips, Heinie had enough money to send his only child, a daughter, to Stanford during World War II.

      Heinie finally sold the bakery and retired to Southern California. Mrs. PG remembers her grandfather always driving a Cadillac, which he replaced with a new one every couple of years.

      Unfortunately, Heinie died before PG showed up in Mrs. PG’s life so PG never had a chance to meet this amazing man.

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