ISTANBUL (Al Jazeera) – Turkish publishers are increasingly struggling to release new books and face agonizing choices to survive amid the country’s economic crisis, according to some of Turkey’s most prestigious publishing houses.
Turkey’s rampant inflation, which officially reached 70 percent in May, has weakened the purchasing power of Turkish bookworms.
Meanwhile, with the Turkish lira slumping to record lows, books are becoming much costlier to produce.
According to February 2022 data from the Statistics Institute of Turkey, the annual increase in paper prices was a record 168 percent.
“We have to decide almost daily which titles to kill, or at least postpone indefinitely, because we have only so much paper,” Cem Akas, editor-in-chief at Can Publishing, told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, many smaller publishers face going under.
Last month, a front-page headline of Cumhuriyet, an opposition newspaper, read: “The publishing houses can no longer print books.”
These are worrying developments for a $1bn industry – more than 87,000 different titles were published in Turkey last year, putting the country sixth in the global publishing rankings.
And publishers say the industry is also vital for Turkey’s cultural vibrancy and as a space for freedom of speech.
After the closure of the country’s domestic paper factories in recent years, the Turkish publishing industry now relies on imported paper – the price of which has skyrocketed as the lira lost nearly half of its value against the U.S. dollar in 2021. Meanwhile, international supply has also been affected by supply chain issues amid the pandemic – leading to acute shortages.
“A ton of high-quality paper used to cost 600 euros in 2021. Now it’s 1,150 euros,” Kenan Kocaturk, the head of Turkey’s Publishers Association, told Al Jazeera.
But he said paper was not the only issue.
“Today, Turkish publishers import everything: paper, ink, the glue used to bind books,” Kocaturk said. “Electricity prices, vital for printers, have skyrocketed.”
Meanwhile, he says Turkish publishers are reluctant to raise their prices amid a cost-of-living crisis – some have even reduced prices to attract customers and compete with online vendors.