The Afrikaans trade (also referred to as “general”) book industry suffered a severe setback over the millennium change owing to sharply reduced purchases by educational authorities, public libraries and the largest general book retailer at the time, the C.N.A. Both publishers and book retailers had to revise their product and marketing strategies in order to survive. A decade has passed since the onset of the crisis. Nielsen BookScan provides
comprehensive and accurate sales data for the period 2004 to 2007 for us to evaluate how
successfully the role-players (including publishing houses and retailers) have adapted to
the changed market forces, and to establish which strategies they adopted. The political, economic and social climate was favourable to implementing the changes. A prolonged consumer spending boom increased the sale of books, and new investment in
retail infrastructure increased the number of book outlets. Emigration reduced the number of Afrikaans speakers in the country, but a renewed interest in their language, history and culture increased the number of Afrikaans book buyers and the average number of books they bought.
Publishers initially sharply reduced their title output and concentrated on books with a wider overall appeal. Previously successful titles were repackaged and republished, often bundled together in two- or three-title omnibuses. Deliberate efforts were made to identify and develop new authors. In contrast to the situation in other smaller languages, few foreign titles were translated into Afrikaans as most Afrikaans speakers preferred to read such books in English.
Much greater emphasis than in the past was placed on putting the Afrikaans book on the shelves of general bookshops. The strategies adopted included more marketing and merchandising support, better terms of trade and forging closer personal relationships with the buyers of these outlets, many of whom were English speaking and not familiar with Afrikaans authors, titles and readers. Book retailers responded to the change by opening a significant number of new bookshops, many in suburbs dominated by Afrikaans speakers. Exclusive Books increased their range and depth of Afrikaans titles, and new bookseller chains like Fascination Books, PNA and CUM Books gave preference to Afrikaans books and specifically targeted the Afrikaans market. The result of the strategic repositioning of both publishers and retailers is a blossoming market which has more than doubled in value in the period 2004 to 2007.