Germany’s Jens Klingelhöfer: ‘A Great Battle for Customers’

In News by Porter Anderson

‘To keep and develop publishers’ traditional core values and at the same time adapt as quickly as possible’ is no mean feet. And Jens Klingelhöfer says the industry can’t afford to fail.
Jens Klingelhöfer

Jens Klingelhöfer

In our series with specialists who’ll tackle issues in the seven pivotal publishing markets of Frankfurt Book Fair’s and Publishing Perspectives’ conference, we hear today from Jens Klingelhöfer, founder of Germany’s Bookwire. Klingelhöfer is one of the business players who will make an intervention—a topical presentation—on Tuesday (October 18) at Frankfurt Book Fair’s Business Club in The Markets: Global Publishing Summit. (Some seats remain, hurry.)


By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Consumption Behavior Is Changing’

300 The Markets logoBookwire was founded in Frankfurt in 2009 as a service provider for ebook distribution and marketing.

In 2013, Bookwire extended its sales to include digital audiobooks, and the company has continued scaling up to serve more than 1,000 publishing clients with more than 180,000 ebooks and 35,000 audiobooks. Bookwire added sales of print-on-demand products in October 2015. Bookwire GmbH is managed by founders Jens Klingelhöfer and John Ruhrmann with Marlies Hebler, and currently employs 36 staffers in Germany, Spain, Brazil and Mexico.

Klingelhöfer came to his work in publishing after more than 10 years in the music industry. This may be one reason that he seems to understand the force of digital competition on reading better than some others in the publishing industry do.

And as we start by asking for what he sees as key talking points, you hear that entertainment-business experience at work in his comments.

Three Points of Concern

bookwire-logo-lined1. Being traditional and super-progressive at the same time. “Things haven’t been easy for publishers the last years,” says Klingelhöfer to Publishing Perspectives.

“Consumption behavior is changing, traditional gatekeeper functionalities are disappearing, self-publishing is allowing everybody to be an author, new digital formats are changing entire publishing processes. And those are only some of the current challenges for publishers.

The main challenge is to keep and develop publishers’ traditional core values and at the same time adapt as quickly as possible to the new digital realities, especially in terms of marketing content.

“In my view the challenge for everybody in the reading industry is to become much better. That means developing the existing core values like curation—filtering as well as building author relations—and combine these with a new and excellent technology and know-how that includes automated and intelligent marketing processes, CRM and data-analysis tools, multiformat and multi=channel distribution strategies, and of course hiring many new talents that willing to create this change.

“This necessarily goes with large-scale change processes—and much internal headache.”

“Even in a future with perfect algorithms…there will always be room for a great idea and a great story that only one individual person in this world could write.”Jens Klingelhöfer

2. A slowdown of digital growth rates is not good news. “We all know that the consumption behavior of people is rapidly changing,” Klingelhöfer says.

“Even though printed books seem to have significant advantages compared to other physical media—for example, music CDs—slower growth rates in the digital sector should worry us.

“Reading is competing with all kinds of digital media consumption and entertainment.

“So we’re already in the middle of a great battle for the attention of our customers.

“Consequently, everybody in this industry should heavily focus on finding new readers and getting in touch with them in order to build relationships with those readers. Otherwise reading will lose market share in the ‘attention market’ of future media consumers.”

3. Taking e-commerce reality more seriously. “Everybody is talking about data,” Klingelhöfer says, “but I’m still wondering about the low number of data specialists and online marketing specialists in the book industry.

“I am convinced that we need to increase our efforts to play an important role in the battle of the e-commerce industry for the attention of potential customers and readers.

“We need to increase our efforts to play an important role in the battle of the e-commerce industry for the attention of potential customers and readers.”Jens Klingelhöfer

“We at Bookwire are heavily working on and investing in specialized marketing tools that allow publishers to automate distribution and marketing processes. At the same time we’re building tools to gain the relevant data around publishing products, sales and target groups in the market in order to enable publishers to manage and adjust their business and marketing strategies very quickly.

“It’s all about increasing reach and visibility, understanding the new market metrics and creating relationships. Having integrated intelligent and sales-supportive marketing measures in the digital distribution process chain?—simply means selling more books.”

‘Otherwise, Books Will Lose Market Share’

Publishing Perspectives: Give us some of your perspective on this, based in your own background in some of publishing’s sister creative industries.

Jens Klingelhöfer: I’m convinced that there’s huge value in the work and the service of publishers. I don’t believe in a publishing world without curators, filters, and people who are passionate and dedicated to finding and developing great authors and stories.

PP: Do automated recommendation formats—algorithms—hold out the promise you’d like to see to help drive discoverability?

“I’m expecting and also hoping for more investments in technology partnerships, collaborations, and bold innovation.”Jens Klingelhöfer

JK: Writing is art–and art can never be just an algorithm. So even in a future with perfect algorithms, recommendations, or robots writing books, there will always be room for a great idea and a great story that only one individual person in this world could write.

PP: Where should we focus now?

JK: We need more innovation. That means new lean and efficient digital workflows as well as automated distribution and marketing processes that allow publishers to (re)act quickly [in ways that are] agile and above all customer-oriented.

So I’m expecting and also hoping for more investments in technology partnerships, collaborations, and bold innovation.

Otherwise books in general will lose market share, no matter if they are printed or digital.


In addition to our Markets white paper, you can read our series of interviews and information in relation to The Markets: Global Publishing Summit (18 October 2016) from Publishing Perspectives and the Frankfurt Book Fair.
The Markets logo

This year’s program will showcase the following seven markets:

  1. Brazil
  2. Flanders & The Netherlands (Guest of Honor)
  3. Philippines
  4. Poland
  5. Spain
  6. United Arab Emirates
  7. United Kingdom

The Markets’ programming highlights each of these seven publishing territories from three perspectives: analysis, vision, and industry players. The day is devised to provide attendees not only with information and insights into the most important features of each industry market, but also with extensive networking opportunities during the event.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. Prior to that he was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, a channel at The Bookseller focused on digital publishing. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.