The National Library of Israel has presented its annual report on the Israeli publishing industry for the year 2021, which points to a resurgence in the Israeli book market, and indicates that for the first time, female authors published more books of Hebrew prose and poetry than their male counterparts.
As it has every year ahead of Hebrew Book Week, the National Library of Israel has presented the Israeli publishing figures for the past year. In 2021, a resurgence in the book market was evident, following a COVID-related slump in 2020. In 2021, 7,344 printed books were published in Israel in addition to 982 digital books. This represents an increase in comparison with the previous year when only 6,487 books were published, but still less than the record figures of 2018 and 2019 when over 8,000 books were published in each of those years. These figures do not include final papers written in academic contexts, academic journals, magazines, or press articles.
In 2021, 447 biographies and autobiographies were published in Israel, primarily by independent publishing houses; 72% of them were written about men and only 28% about women. There were 381 releases in the “Instructional Books” category, most of them dedicated to self-empowerment, relationships, and family life, as well as methods for earning money. Seventy-four books were published in 2021 dealing directly with the COVID pandemic.
The vast majority of the books published in Israel were released in Hebrew – 91.4%; 4.8% were published in English; 2.2% in Arabic; 0.6% in Russian; and 1% in other languages.
In terms of subject matter, most categories of books have not seen major changes in publishing figures over the years, but certain long-term trends and shifts have been noted. For example, for the past few years, we have seen an ongoing decrease in the number of books and releases in the “Israeli Society and History” category. This drop is mainly because this category includes research publications and reports by various government bodies. Increasingly, these kinds of publications are being published online and therefore their printed distribution has gone from 11% two years ago to 7% in the past year. Another interesting trend is the ongoing increase in the number of biographies being published, particularly biographies dedicated to non-public figures.
The figures in the National Library’s annual report are based on books that arrived at the Library as a result of the Legal Deposit Law, which requires anyone who publishes more than 50 copies of a book to provide two copies to the National Library in Jerusalem. While many people print less than 50 copies of their books and still deposit copies at the National Library, there are also independent publishers who do not, and therefore the actual number of books published in Israel is greater than the figure that appears in the annual report.