Publishers propose govt introduce annual “culture vouchers”

Ljubljana – The Slovenian publishing industry has been severely affected by the Covid epidemic and now also with higher paper prices. Industry insiders thus propose that the state issue annual culture vouchers to encourage people to buy books as a means of helping the industry cope with the rising prices.

Vladimir Kukavica, head of the chamber of publishers at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, expects the government to help create conditions to keep books as high as possible among the social values by encouraging the writing, drawing, reading, publishing and buying of books.

“An annual culture voucher would not only help the publishing industry breathe freely, it would also have multiplier effects on the entire Slovenian economy and society as a whole,” he has told the STA.

Kukavica says the coronavirus lockdowns hit the industry hard. In 2020, bookshops were closed for the most part of the year opening among the last businesses, which slashed the publishing industry’s revenue by almost 7% from 2019.

Net sales revenue fell by almost 13% and net profit by almost 9%, while the situation improved to the 2019 levels last year, also due to the vouchers the government introduced to help tourism that could also be spent on books.

However, the current energy prices have now pushed up the prices of paper as the basic raw material used in the production of books, Kukavica says.

Slovenian Statistics Office data shows that industrial products in the group of paper production increased by almost 28% the first half of the year.

In the period between May this year and May last year, the price of paper doubled, says Kukavica, adding that forecasts for this autumn are rather uncertain.

“Although wholesalers have warehouses full of paper, they are not willing to disclose prices for the autumn period,” he says, adding they will certainly depend on the price and availability of energy products.

Celjska Mohorjeva Družba, the eighth largest publisher in the country, increased its printing prices by 35-80% depending on the specifics of books over the past year.

At the same time, the Celje-based company faces longer paper delivery times and shortages of certain types of paper.

It says that their books will be more expensive, although it admits it “is not in a position to raise the retail prices as much as dictated by paper and energy prices”.

Publisher Umco agrees the higher paper prices will affect the industry, but does not expect all book prices to rise to the same extent because books are published under different business models and receive different levels of subsidies.

Both Umco and Celjska Mohorjeva Družba support the “culture vouchers”, with Umco also proposing lowering VAT on books and introducing subsidies for paper purchases.