According to an article published by Publishers Weekly, as part of the Bologna Children's Book Fair, sales of books in English are increasing across Europe, with TikTok being one of the main factors driving this trend which translated into 3% of the market volume, in 2023, in Portugal.

This value is corroborated by the president of the Portuguese Association of Publishers and Booksellers (APEL), Pedro Sobral, who, based on data from the consultancy Gfk, told Lusa that imported books (consisting almost exclusively of books in English) represented 3% of the market value, which means a growth of around 25% compared to 2022.

In the first quarter of this year alone, the sale of books in English already represents a growth of around 33% compared to the same period last year, highlighted Pedro Sobral.

However, the Gfk panel does not measure book sales in 'online' channels and in stores such as Amazon, which have a very significant weight, in addition to the fact that it only covers around 87% of the bookstore market, so many sales are left out of this accounting.

Taking this factor into consideration, the calculations extrapolated by APEL indicate that the English language book market is currently worth anything between 5% and 8% of the total value of the Portuguese market.

In line with Europe, this trend occurs mainly in the fiction category, although it can also be found in non-fiction.

According to Pedro Sobral, the TikTok effect is one of the main drivers of the phenomenon -- "because it brings and gives great visibility to international titles and often even before their release" --, but it is not the only one.

Direct online access, enabling immediate purchase after discovering the book, also plays "a very important role" here, which is why "the size book sales in English sold outside the Gfk panel is quite significant", noted the person in charge.

Another factor to consider is the price, since, as a rule, books published in the United Kingdom or the United States "have infinitely higher circulations, because they cover gigantic domestic markets, but they also have this export effect to other countries".

This "creates an enormous economy of scale, allowing lower prices and which, due to the vastness of the global market they cover, are soon launched in various formats, with different prices, always significantly lower than the Portuguese editions".


Faced with this scenario, "Portuguese publishers are quite worried", with many titles already seeing lower sales in the Portuguese edition than the same edition in English, which puts "the viability of many editorial projects" at risk, he warned the president of APEL.

The situation takes on an even more worrying character if one takes into account the fact that, "the overwhelming majority", of Portuguese readers prefer the Portuguese edition to the original, if it is available with the same immediacy and at similar prices, he added.

However, regarding the price, Pedro Sobral explained that "Portuguese publishers don't have much to fight against", because it is an economy of scale with which it is completely impossible to compete or match that of the English-language market.

"Of course, the editors have been working hard on shortening the original version and the Portuguese version to close this 'gap' and thus lose as few readers as possible, but much more is needed, given this very worrying situation," he said.

In addition to this, "global 'players' like Amazon do not comply with the Fixed Price Law, competing unfairly with Portuguese 'online' booksellers and booksellers, and, given the small size of the market, it is necessary to take measures even in the Price Law Fixed, as has already happened in countries like France", he added.

Recognizing that it is "very positive" to have new generations in Portugal with such absolute command of the English language, Pedro Sobral warned, however, of the possibility that the Portuguese language could be facing "a very important challenge in its future" and argued that the Defense of the Portuguese language must be a priority, supporting Portuguese writers, editors, and booksellers.

"If naturally, we have to continue focusing on English both at school, whether in higher education or in the existence of books in English, it is also true that it is necessary to create public policies to defend and promote the Portuguese language, support for Portuguese writers, editors, and booksellers and, above all, for books in Portuguese".