Book Publishing in Lithuania
Changes in Lithuanian
book publishing started in the late 1980s with the reforms in the former
USSR and gained yet more impetus with the regained Lithuanian independence
and transiting to market economy.
Book publishing boomed in the first independence years. Yet the inflation
and the 1993 introduction of the national currency had a negative impact
on the situation. Dropping incomes in social layers purchasing books
(intellectuals, civil servants) dwarfed the circulation and increased
production costs. Book prices soared up, the numbers of buyers dropped.
Around 1998, the book market in the country was full, and the competition
high among fiction and nonfiction publishers. With the approximate 30%
drop in book selling, a number of publishers experienced crisis, which
they have been trying to overcome by a careful market research.
Lithuanian publishing is domestic market oriented. After the failed
attempts to export Lithuanian literature in translation, the current
policy is to create a national promotion system for translations of
Lithuanian authors abroad.
Of all Lithuanian publishing output, two thirds are by the publishing
houses, private ones and those run by different state agencies, confessions,
etc.; the remainder is published by the state agencies, international
organizations, funds, associations and the like.
The size of the market has prompted domination of versatile publishers.
In several years emerged a group of leading publishers, Alma littera,
Vaga, Baltos lankos, Tyto alba, TEV, Šviesa and some others.
90% of the output is in Lithuanian, the rest in Russian, Polish, English
and other languages. Fiction makes up one fourth of the new titles.
Though local titles dominate in number, translations outnumber them
Book printing quality, which initially dropped with the coming of inexperienced
people in business, is now recovering. New and private printers have
augmented the capabilities of the former state run printing houses.
Of 150 currently in business, some give a product technically no worse
than in Western Europe. Yet among many aesthetically appealing books,
exist also those of poor taste and quality. Often the excuse for that
are scare publishers resources. In reality the artists designing
book covers often lack insight into the subtleties of the market.
Book selling is the biggest headache of the business, as so far no new
book distribution and selling system has been created. Of the several
currently operating wholesalers and over 200 retail bookshops, only
one tenth are privately owned and attempt to work in a modern fashion.
Reference and expensive coffee table books sell best.
The Lithuanian State gave up the monopoly in publishing, but still has
a power of financial regulation. Deplorably, to date, the country has
no publishing legislation or clear state policy in this field.
Over the 1990s, Lithuanian publishing profited largely from the
OLFs operations and its Publishing Program, which, besides making
possible publishing of the translations of Western classical books in
different fields of knowledge, also set the standard and provided trading.
A hampering factor in publishing was the shortage of experience by the
new people who came into business.
Those still in publishing business expect a lot from the reviving Lithuanian
economy; some of them will have to fold up though, as today publishers
are in excess. More state support is expected as well as impetus from
the adjusted Charity and Support Law. Hopefully, this could sustain
the phenomenon of Lithuanian reader, which keeps amazing foreign publishers.