According to the International Publishers Association (IPA), Slovenia has the second highest number of books published per million inhabitants in the world.
After Slovenia’s independence in 1991, nearly all publishing houses successfully made the transition to the open market economy, and many new ones were established. In combination with the rapid development of digitisation and printing technology, this led to growth in newly published titles. Alongside this, Slovenia has successfully retained and further developed its traditionally widespread network of public libraries, from which readers borrow significantly more books than they buy in bookstores.
Owing to the significantly higher number of readers and authors in countries such as Spain, France, and Germany, more than 100,000 new titles are published annually, while in small markets such as Iceland, Slovenia, Lithuania, and Estonia, only some 1,000–3,000 new titles are published annually. However, when the number of books published is calculated per million inhabitants, small markets perform better than large ones. For example, Estonia and Iceland published more than 2,000 new titles per million inhabitants per year between 2010 and 2015, while Slovenia, Finland, and Norway published 1 500–2 000 titles per million inhabitants annually, putting them on par with the UK.
Because of the smaller number of authors, as in all similarly small book industries, Slovene book publishing depends substantially on translations. For example, it is logical to expect that the number of successful crime writers in Germany, a country of 80 million, would be higher than Slovenia’s in mere 2 million. As a result, in small markets, the lack of a more diverse domestic book production environment is compensated by translations. Since its independence in 1991, when access to copyrighted works became much easier, the number of translations in Slovenia has traditionally accounted for around one-fifth of all book production: Back in in 1990, 1853 books and pamphlets were published in Slovenia, of which 154 were translations; after 2000, the number of translations levelled off at around 30% of entire book production. In fiction, however, translations represent more than half of all book production: In 2020, of some 1,800 fiction titles published, 1072 were books written in Slovene, 409 were translations from English, and 250 from all other languages.
Public libraries and bookstores
The number of bookstores in Slovenia has long been relatively low, most likely due to the fact that the majority of the population traditionally lived in towns with less than 5,000 32 inhabitants, where opening and running a bookstore was not economically viable. For this reason, other distribution channels for books such as door-to-door sales, mail order, and book clubs flourished in the 20th century. A turning point came in the 1990s and 2000s with the advent of digitization and large shopping malls, which led on the one hand to an increase in retail book sales, and on the other hand to rapid growth in online sales. Online sales were further accelerated by the pandemic after 2020. As a result, there are only two large bookstore/stationery chains (with up to 50 stores), and one small chain (with up to 10 stores) in Slovenia, today. We can, in fact, count the number of independent bookstores on just two hands.
However, all publishers have their online stores, where – especially smaller publishers – usually generate more than half of their sales. As a result, public libraries have been more important in the dissemination of books than have bookstores, reaching areas and readers where bookstores, as businesses, could not compete. And they have long been seen as an important mechanism in the effort to preserve the country and the culture’s linguistic identity – which is one of the chief reasons local communities and governments have systematically supported public libraries over the last 100 years. Today, thanks to a dense network of public library branches and bibliobuses, even people living in remote areas have easy access to books without having to travel far from home. In addition, Slovenian libraries are relatively well financed and have a wide range of newly published books, so it is not surprising that the number of loans far exceeds the number of book sales. An average Slovenian borrows a book or extends a loan about 11 times a year (compared to two books sold per capita), and every fifth Slovenian has a library card.