Bestsellers on newsprint: how counterfeiting kills the Ukrainian book market

(feature article)

Some believe that the main problem in the printing industry is the dominance of Russian publishers and their daughters. Others – in insufficient number of books in the state language.

But there is another problem that has been little talked about until recently: counterfeit literature.

Counterfeit books penetrate shops, social networks, and sometimes well-known marketplaces, causing millions in losses to publishers and bookstores that work with legal products.

While world publishers are waiting for an increase in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, circulation in Ukraine is falling at almost the fastest pace in Europe.

In 2020, about 20 million books and brochures were printed in Ukraine – two and a half times less than a year earlier. The number of printed products per Ukrainian was 0.48 against 1.46 in 2019. This figure was worse only in 1999.

In such a way, official circulations are constantly declining, although in Ukraine potentially the demand for books is growing. Counterfeit sellers satisfy the needs of buyers; market participants are sure.

How is the counterfeit book market organized, how does it kill legal products and is it realistic to stop it?

Where does counterfeit literature come from?

Since 2011, official imports of books from Russia have decreased 12 times. It fell especially sharply after the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the war in Donbass.

In 2017, Ukraine began to regulate the import of books from Russia, and in 2019 imposed sanctions against a number of Russian publishers.

Russian-language publications are capturing the market. How can a Ukrainian book win the fight?

Demand for Russian-language literature could be met by Ukrainian publishers, but they cannot publish Russian bestsellers due to a lack of copyright.

Moreover, counterfeits are two to three times cheaper than original books because their producers do not pay taxes and do not spend on copyright, translation, layout and marketing.

Some scammers even save on paper, while the official publishers try to keep the quality mark.

Thus, a Ukrainian consumer with relatively low purchasing power would rather prefer a cheaper counterfeit book than buy a more expensive book from a Ukrainian publisher.

According to our sources from the EP in the Ukrainian book industry, counterfeit literature occupies 30-35% of the market. The volume of the entire book market of Ukraine in 2020, according to experts, reached 100 million dollars.

As a result, Ukrainian bookstores, publishers, authors and printers are losing tens of millions of dollars, which are being eaten up by counterfeits.

How to distinguish a fake from the original

The same book in well-known bookstores can cost 200 hryvnias, and on a little-known resource – two or three times cheaper. The probability that the latter option is a fake is 99%.

It is almost impossible to detect a counterfeit, especially without the original edition. Digital printing allows you to make copies of pages and hard covers even without additional layout.

Counterfeits can often be seen in soft covers, while the original – in hard. Counterfeits are also often printed on cheap newsprints.

Usually counterfeit literature is published at a low price and by questionable points of sale. You can get a fake on unauthorized sites such as Instagram stores, Telegram channels, all sorts of “flea markets” and questionable sites.

By purchasing such a product, the reader supports the shadow market and fraudsters, not the authors, translators and publishers who worked on this book. The budget does not receive taxes from fake books.

How to sell counterfeit

You don’t have to know secret channels in Telegram or go to Darknet to buy cheap fakes. Just several minutes in the search engines are enough.

For example, we are looking for the bestseller “Fine Art of Pofigism: a paradoxical way to live happily” from the publishing house “Alpina Publisher Ukraine.”

In the Yakaboo store, which is the official distributor of this publisher, such a book costs 188 UAH at a discount. However, Google finds small sites where the same book can be bought for half or even three times less…

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