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German E-books Accounted for 0.5% Revenue in 2010, Breakthrough Expected in 2011

By Publishing Perspectives staff

Germany’s book market is among the top three in size in the world, though e-books remain only a small percentage of overall sales, accounting for 21.2 million Euros in revenue in 2010, or 0.5% of the total market (excluding academic books and textbooks) and just 5.4% of sales, according to a new joint study between the German Publishers’ Association and GfK Panel Services called “Breakthrough in the Book Market? The E-book in Germany.”

This is the first ever large-scale study of the German e-book market and the results indicate that the publishing industry is convinced of the impact of increasing digitalization, even though Germans still read print books almost exclusively.

“Publishers are investing in the e-book market even though they’re currently ahead of the readers,” said Juergen Horbach, treasurer of the German Publishers’ Association and the CEO of KV&H Verlag.

Some 35% of publishers already offer e-books, and 80% plan to in the coming years. Eighty-two percent of Germans buy exclusively or mostly print books, and only 2% buy mostly e-books.

“2011 will be the real breakthrough for the e-book,” Alexander Skipis, chief executive of the German Publishers’ Association. “We are witnessing the formation of a new market. The content and products are on the market, and will begin to find their way to the reader in the next 1-2 years. The decisive factor now will be ease of access to the books, and how well the reading devices are designed.”

These survey consisted of several parts. At the start of 2011, a selection of 1800 booksellers and 1850 publishers were surveyed. The extrapolation of e-book sales and turnover in 2010 comes from a GfK consumer panel consisting of 20,000 people interviewed each month about their book purchases. This sample is representative of the German population over 10 years old. And the consumer opinions on e-books is based on a survey from January 2011 of 10,000 readers about e-books, and is representative of the 64 million Germans aged 10 or older. This survey was done solely by GfK.

Two years ago, the introduction of the libreka! platform help standardize content rights across the industry. This allows smaller e-book sellers as well as major platforms in the e-book business to participate.

“The better the unity between the publishers, content, and the end product, the more dynamic the market will be. This is the expectation of experts from the publishing community,” said Hans Huck, spokesperson for the Electronic Publications Department in the German Publishers’ Association, and Director of E-Books and E-Commerce at Koch, Neff & Volckmar.

German publishers expect 16.2% of their total sales to be e-books by 2015.

On average, German publishers each have 186 e-book titles for sale, smaller publishers have an average of 85. According to those in the industry, about 40% of new titles are also offered as e-books.

Scientific and reference books are still the largest subset — 30% of publishers who offer e-books publish an average of 231 books, 28% offer 147 books.

Nonfiction e-books are offered by 33% and are thereby the largest group, but publishers only offer an average of 35 titles. Fiction books are growing — 11% of publishers offer an average of 89 fiction titles.

There is a striking difference in the book industry between large and small market participants. Only 32% of bookstores offer e-books, but among bookstores with 10 or more employees, that number jumps to 85%. Yet there is potential for 46% of bookstores to offer e-books in the near future. A major barrier to e-book sales is low customer demand, said 91% of booksellers.

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