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Quebec study looks at Canadian publishers’ export activities

Researcher and University of Quebec Trois-Rivieres ph.D student Stephane Labbe. Photo: Annie Brien

Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Ph.D. student Stéphane Labbé. (photo: Annie Brien)

A study published by Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières researcher Stéphane Labbé offers new insights into English-and French-language publishing exports.

Labbé, currently completing his Ph.D. in social communications, has more than a decade of experience in the publishing industry and was frustrated with the lack of cohesive data on the country’s book exports.

“We could track the evolution of these exports, which would be a great resource for those in the publishing industry and for researchers,” he told University Affairs.

Using unpublished data from Ottawa non-profit Livres Canada Books (for which he serves on the board of directors) and the Association nationale des éditeurs de livres, Labbé compiled overall sales and export numbers for approximately 75 French-language publishers and 75 English-language publishers for 2005, and from 2010 to 2014. He looked at publication language, publisher size based on annual revenues, export mode (finished book vs. publishing rights), and book genre.

The study, intended to serve as a “snapshot,” indicated a few interesting trends:

Canadia’s buggest book export markets are the U.S., the U.K., Western Europe, and Latin America, and about 90 per cent of exports are finished books. Sales of publishing licenses comprise the remaining 10 per cent.

The majority of sales for children’s literature publishers – 48 to 59 per cent – are international, in comparison to overall export sales for English-language publishers (around one third of all sales) and French-language publishers (less than one quarter of all sales).

Canadian children’s books and textbooks were found to be surprisingly popular in Asia (China, the Philippines, and Singapore); adult fiction is most shipped to Western Europe and Latin America; and adult non-fiction to the U.S., Western Europe, Latin America, and Scandinavia. Over time, there was an increase in the number of export countries for English-language publishers, and a decrease among French-language publishers. French-language titles have lower export rates internationally due to more English speakers in many countries.

The study also found that publishers with an annual revenue lower than $1.5-million are the most active exporters, and tended to grow and export more over time, while bigger companies experienced decreased sales, both in Canada and abroad.

Labbé plans to publish a more detailed version of his findings in December, and hopes to repeat the study every three to four years.