Germany Reports 3.2 Percent Book Sales Growth in 2021

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Sales of children’s and YA books grew 9.4 percent in 2021 over 2019 in Germany, gaining on pre-pandemic levels, the Börsenverein reports.

Awaiting booster inoculations for COVID-19 in Neuwied, December 15, 2021. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Jokue Photography

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

‘Even Better Than Before the Coronavirus Pandemic’
In a statement released today (January 6) to the news media, the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, reports “sales growth of 3.2 percent compared to 2020 in central sales channels.”

Publishing Perspectives readers will recall the horrific timing of new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in mid-December 2020 that scuttled Germany’s hard-won bid for recovery that year.

As reported today, the German book market was able to hold its own in the second pandemic year.

The “central sales channels” being cited for the 3.2-percent figure comprise the retail book trade, e-commerce including Amazon, train-station bookshops, department stores, electronics and drugstores,” and this is where that gain over 2020 is being seen.

“Business was even better than before the coronavirus pandemic,” the Börsenverein’s team reports.

“Compared to 2019, book-market sales increased by 0.8 percent,” they write. “The business was unable to catch up with the month-long store closings in the spring and finished with a drop in sales of 3.1 percent compared to 2020, and 11.5 percent compared to the pre-pandemic year 2019.” The Börsenverein is using data provided by the industry monitor BUCH, published monthly by the German Book Trade Association. It’s based on the data from the Media Control retail panel.

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs

“The book proved to be crisis-proof during the pandemic,” says Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, chair of the Börsenverein. “People have a great need for good stories, for reliable information, advice, and inspiration.

“It’s true that the month-long store closings at the beginning of the year—as well as the decline in sales traffic in the city centers—posed a major challenge to the local book trade. But the demand for books was high.

“Thanks to the great commitment, the closeness to customers and the creativity of the bookstores and publishers, the book market was able to work its way out of the lockdown deficit month after month.

“Many bookstores, including small ones, benefited from growing online sales. This is good news in view of the increasing cost pressure, for example, from paper and energy prices. Those costs have increased significantly and will keep the book industry busy in the new year, too.”

Gains Made Post-Lockdown

As in 2020, the book trade is reported today to have caught up in the spring of 2021 following the winter lockdown that had seen out 2020 with revenues down -2.3 percent. At the end of April, the shortfall in stationery sales compared to the pre-pandemic year 2019 was -30.4 percent. At the end of the year, it was only -11.5 percent.

  • Children’s and YA books continued to grow significantly during the pandemic, titles for younger readers generating 9.4 percent more sales than in 2019
  • Fiction was up 4.2 percent, and nonfiction was up 1.6 percent over 2019
  • There remains, however, “a large gap” in sales for travel literature, which is seen lagging by -26.4 percent

According to Media Control, the bestselling novel in 2021 in hardcover was Juli Zeh’s Über Menschen by Juli Zeh (About People, Penguin Random House/ Luchterhand Literaturverlag).

Playlist by Sebastian Fitzek (Droemer Knaur) follows in second place.

Lucinda Riley takes third place with Die verschwundene Schwester (The Missing Sister, Penguin Random House / Goldmann Verlag).

Among nonfiction bestsellers in hardcover, Pfoten vom Tisch by Hape Kereling led the field (Paws Off the Table, Piper).

Published data for a full span of sales channels in the trade are expected in the summer.

The Coronavirus in Germany

“German towns have appealed to authorities for less ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ and more ‘forward-thinking planning,’ as the country looks likely to miss its vaccination target for January,” writes Reuters Berlin this morning–not a dissimilar demand from that heard in the United States and many other Western markets.

“Germany has a low rate of vaccination compared with some other western European countries: 71.5 percent of the population is fully vaccinated and 40.9 percent have received a booster shot.”

Louis Westendarp writes for Politico that 16 regional health ministers in the German federation on Wednesday urged shortening the current 14-day quarantine period to seven days for people who have been vaccinated and have had a breakthrough infection. “Germany is bracing for a wave of cases of the latest coronavirus variant, ‘omicron,’ which has already driven record infections in other European countries. Because omicron is more contagious than earlier COVID-19 strains, but also less deadly, governments want to shorten quarantine to prevent mandatory isolation causing mass staff absences at hospitals and other essential services.”

The Robert Koch Institute for infectious disease reported 64,340 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the total number to more than 7.36 million, per Reuters.

At this writing, the 8:22 a.m. ET (1322 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees on a 28-day rolling basis, 37,295 cases in Germany’s population of 83 million, with 1,048,217 fatalities. During the full run of the pandemic, Germany has reported a total 7,390,312 cases and 113,371 deaths.

On Marienplatz in Munich, November 14, 2021. Image – Getty iStockphoto: B2 Photography


More from Publishing Perspectives on the German book market is here, more on international publishing industry statistics is here, and more on Europe is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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