German Publishers and Booksellers Association Fears ‘monopolistic’ Amazon

German FlagBörsenverein, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, revealed 2014 sales figures for the German book market. The overall market saw a 2.2% fall and a slight increase in e-book sales. The Association’s Managing Director Alexander Skipis cited a significant decline in bestseller titles (down more than 20% on 2013) and growing ‘monopolistic companies like Amazon’. The German book industry’s economic data for the past year was presented this morning in Frankfurt am Main.

Germany is a nation of readers. As the second largest book industry in the world, the German market functions as a role model for both quality and diversity, and market performance is generally stable. We are eager to maintain and expand this state of affairs. However, we fear that monopolistic companies like Amazon will continue to play out their dominance and abuse their market strength even further.

— Alexander Skipis, Börsenverein Managing Director

Skipis pointed to concentration tendencies on the market, in particular in the online book trade, saying:

In light of these tendencies, we urge the EU Commission to set up an effective monitoring of market strength and influence – one that is appropriate to the digital era.

He noted that the Börsenverein was less than satisfied with the TTIP negotiations and would continue to seek to exempt Germany’s system of fixed book prices from the trade talks. Skipis wants a statement of assurance from the EU Commission that fixed pricing is not up for discussion even if US President Obama ‘mentions it at the negotiating table.’

It was a good year for us, even though those strong bestsellers were absent. For the second year in a row, stationary bookstores are ahead of online bookshops. In fact, the gap between the revenues of these two distribution channels continues to widen. This is impressive, but not surprising, seeing as the book trade invests tremendous energy into the expansion and modernization of its concepts. As a result, stationary bookstores feel that their new approach has been validated and they can look confidently towards the future. Indeed, the activities of the past several years are now bearing fruit. These include targeted marketing, a strong customer-based focus on activities and the expansion of their own online business both with print titles and e-books.

Heinrich Riethmüller, Börsenverein Chairman

The German book trade is in permanent motion and Riethmüller believes that there will be some changes, alliances and better cooperation between bookstores, publishers and authors.

The e-book has found its place on the book market. Buyer interest is at hand, and the volume and sales of private purchases rose once again. Nonetheless, the price level of bought books sank, which meant that the increase in turnover was not as large as in previous years.

The book industry report highlighted the fact that the share of print and e-readers is in decline and but that, in general, more and more readers are turning to printed books.

This result surprised us. However, seeing as everything is in flux, performance can quickly gain momentum when new forms and sales models increase the incentive for e-book use.

— Matthias Heinrich, Börsenverein Executive Committee member


Business Facts & Figures

In 2014, stationary bookstores remained the largest distribution path and enjoyed sales of €4.58 billion. That was indeed 1.2 percent less than in the previous year: however, the share of the overall market rose again to 49.2 percent (2013: 48.6 percent). Internet bookstores experienced a substantial decline in sales of 3.1 percent. Turnover in 2014 was at 16.2 percent, which corresponds to a total turnover of €1.51 billion. In 2014, there was a massive sales decline in traditional mail-order bookstores. This distribution path, which consists of book-buying via catalogue, mailing or telephone, experienced a minus of 26.0 percent in 2014 (sales: €161 million; share: 1.7 percent). In contrast, good results were generated by publishers in their direct business, which recorded a plus of 1.5 percent and €1.9 billion sales in 2014. This represents a market share of 20.4 percent.


Sales and Production: Book Categories, Book Production, Translations, Licenses

2014 was a particularly good year in the non-fiction category. Sales rose by 5.4 percent, with the share of turnover moving from 9.4 to 10.1 percent. The advice and travel book categories were into positive figures with a sales increase of 1.2 percent and 0.8 percent respectively. The share of turnover for advice and how-to books was 14.9 percent in 2014 (2013: 14.4 percent) and 6.5 percent (2013: 6.4 percent) for travel literature. Fiction, which traditionally is the strongest category on the popular market, had a difficult year in terms of sales performance. After a stable high turnover in 2012 thanks to the “Shades of Grey” series and a decline in sales of 3.5 percent in 2013, sales in this category – without any exceptionally strong bestsellers – decreased by 6.7 percent. The share of turnover shrank to 32.4 percent (2013: 34.1 percent).

In 2014, the number of books produced (first editions) by publishers sank to 73,863 titles from 81,919 in 2013. Performance declined across almost all case product groups. This development impacted on fiction (2014: 14.111; 2013: 15.610) and the computer science product category (2014: 1.151; 2013: 1.656), in particular.

Similarly, the number of first-edition translations in comparison to the previous year fell from 10,731 in 2013 to 9,962 in 2014. The most important languages remain English, French and Japanese. At 6,443 in 2014 (2013: 6,466), the numbers for license sales remained at the same level as the previous year. In this realm, the most important product groups remained children’s and young adult books with 2,362 licenses (36.7 percent) and fiction with 1,197 licenses (18.6 percent). In 2014, 983 licenses – the most in that year – went to the Chinese language, with English-language titles far behind in second place with 450 licenses.


Book Buyers and the E-book

E-books have established themselves on the market, but they do not dominate it. Last year, the share of turnover in e-books on the popular market (excluding school books and textbooks) rose slightly by 7.6 percent to reach 4.3 percent (2013: 3.9 percent). In the same time period, the sales volume for e-books rose by 15 percent. The average purchasing intensity per consumer is at 2013 levels with 6.4 e-books per year. In 2014, 3.9 million people bought 24.8 million e-books, while in 2013 3.4 million people bought 21.5 million e-books. The distribution according to categories is roughly consistent in the realm of e-book sales: it was dominated by fiction to the tune of 84 percent, while children’s and young adult literature’s share of turnover fell from 7 to 5 percent in 2014.

Among readers who are familiar with and/or use e-books, the euphoria is slightly muted. The proportion of people who, according to their own statements, intend to purchase books in the future solely in print form increased. In 2014, only 38 percent of those surveyed were in favor of purchasing exclusively printed books in the future (2013: 40 percent): but the current numbers for 2015 are up to 45 percent. Similarly, the projected use of both print and e-books simultaneously declined. At 7 percent, the share of users who read primarily e-books remained consistent.


Further Information:

The projections for e-book sales volumes and turnover were taken from the GfK Consumer Panel Media*Scope Buch, which surveyed a total of 25,000 people on their monthly book-buying habits. This group is representative of the general German population over ten years of age, which totals roughly 67.8 million people. Opinions on the topic of e-books were surveyed exclusively on behalf of the Börsenverein as part of the GfK Consumer Panel Media*Scope Buch. In each case, 10,000 people starting at the age of eleven were surveyed.

All numbers and data on the German book market are summarized in a publication known as “Buch und Buchhandel in Zahlen 2015” (“Books and Bookstores in Numbers 2015” – only in German language) published by the Börsenverein. It will be available as of August in bookstores and at MVB Marketing- und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH



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