Fewer books are being translated from English to Swedish. Impatient Swedish readers want to read their favorites right away and prefer their books in English.
“The number of translations from English to Swedish is decreasing steadily,” says Kristina Ahlinder, CEO at Förläggareföreningen (the Swedish Publishers’ Association) in an article in Dagens Nyheter. “Twenty years ago, it was the other way around.” There are several reasons as to why there are less translations today. Ahlinder points to the fact that the cost of translation has gone up so much that some publishing houses cannot afford working with foreign literature. Another reason is impatient readers who want to sink their teeth into new foreign books right away. A third reason is that many readers are so used to reading in English that they actively look for books in the original English. Popular authors like Dan Brown, for instance, must be translated immediately in order to stand a chance being sold. The bigger British and American publishing houses know that the Swedish market is an important one when it comes to English-language literature, and delay selling the Swedish rights until they’ve sold enough of the books in the original language.
A clear sign that Sweden is an important export market is that marketing and sales have increased dramatically just in recent years, enough so that Amazon will open a special branch for Sweden and northern Europe where English-language literature will be sold online. The demand for English books have led to a number of book dealers specializing in getting fresh books from England and the US. One of them is The English Bookshop with stores in Stockholm and Uppsala. Says Christer Valdeson, who works at the store on Lilla Nygatan in Stockholm, and who is a co-owner of The English Bookshop: “More and more younger people buy series like Harry Potter and the Twilight series an fantasy books in English, they don’t want to wait until they’re available in Swedish.”
Meanwhile, the export of Swedish books abroad is also increasing, to a record 154.4 million SEK (close to $23 million) during 2010, a 25% increase since 2009 and a 50% increase since 2000. It’s authors like Stieg Larsson, Camilla Läckberg, Mons Kallentoft, Henning Mankell and Lars Kepler that’s the reason to this success. “I almost only do translations from Swedish to English nowaways,” says Katarina Sjöwall Trodden, chairwoman at Översättarcentrum (Translator’s Center). “Even smaller publishers join the international market by translating Swedish books.”