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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Reports of the book’s death were grossly exaggerated. In 2022, the sector grew again – Economy

José Manuel Lopes de Castro was speaking to Lusa a little less than a week away from the annual meeting of the Portuguese Association of Graphics and Paper Transformations (Apigraf), which takes place on March 11 and 12, in Luso, and where an assessment of 2022, which closed “positive” and will also talk about the 170 years of graphic associations.

“We will celebrate at the end of the year with an exhibition in Porto, at the Faculty of Fine Arts, and with the launch of a two-volume book on the 170 years of associativism”, he says, adding that for the production of content he has a partnership with Universidade Nova, more precisely from the Institute of Contemporary History, and is highly sponsored by the Presidency of the Republic”.

This “is a major project” on which Apigraf has invested, with the aim of “showing the dynamics of a sector” that “recurrently is not known”, points out José Manuel Lopes de Castro.

Regarding the annual meeting, he says that the balance will be made without numbers, “because there are no closed numbers”, but there are “sensitivities”.

And, from that angle, “the year was generally good”, despite the fact that the first half was “a disaster with the shortage of raw materials [papel] and by the brutal increase” in its price, something that was “transversal to the entire sector”, he says.

However, in the middle of last year, the market “began to stabilize, to normalize, and now I think that things will be more or less normalized in supply and more or less stabilized in price”, considers the president of Apigraf, a sector that employs around 20,000 workers, has more than 2,700 companies and represents 4% of the manufacturing industry.

“The year — we have to confirm this with numbers —, according to the indicators we have, was positive, which is frankly good”, he advances.

These are some of the points that Apigraf will share at the meeting, emphasizing that the sector is much more than the graphic arts, it includes the publishing sector, packaging, labels, just to name a few.

For example, in the book publishing sector there is a “strange positive phenomenon”, he says, which is contrary to newspaper and magazine publishing.

“Once again, in 2022 the book rose again, both in terms of acquisition and readership numbers rose, but the numbers of buyers also rose across Europe, it is an interesting phenomenon”, highlights the president of Apigraf.

Lopes de Castro considers that the news of the book’s death were manifestly exaggerated and these data from 2022 prove this: “It has already been considered dead several times, it is rising, it is growing and there are indicators that it is going to be fine”.

Now, “the newspaper, everyone, everyone has reduced a lot of print runs”, he emphasizes, pointing out that some are even “residual”.

Reading the newspaper, he says, “was compromised by the offer, whether in terms of the telephone, ‘tablet’, this all-digital offer”, he continues, stressing that “the very marked newspapers are resisting and well”.

At an international level, he points out, “there are interesting projects”, both in the United States and in Europe, of newspapers that have stopped printing on paper and are now returning to print.

“Because only by going back to paper do they have access to a recipe called print advertising, it’s a funny phenomenon”, he exemplifies.

In the Portuguese case, there is the Diário de Notícias (DN), which left the paper and then returned, but with low print runs.

“There is one thing that seems to me to have been proven: the ‘online’ newspaper subscribers are the paper newspaper buyers”, says José Manuel Lopes de Castro.

The same happens with book readers, who are the buyers of ‘ebooks’ [livros eletrónicos] Kobo and Kindle, “these devices did not create new reading markets”, he says.

In the case of newspapers, he insists, “we are talking about a sector that has been in crisis for a long time, it is not new” and “it will hardly go back to what it was”.

In short, currently the supply and demand for paper “are already balanced and, for example, something that was a concern for us has stabilized, the price has also stabilized, it stabilized on the rise, but it is stabilized”, he stresses.

“Now, the drama we experienced last year, in the first half, not having raw material was complicated” and this had consequences, including newspapers “closing” and “there are editorial projects that were not carried out because it was simply not produced, there was no raw material”, he says.

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