German Book Sales in 2022: A Market Down 2.1 Percent

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The first report from the Börsenverein on the German book market’s 2022 performance depicts ‘a major economic challenge.’

In Cologne’s city center shopping district, December 29, 2022. The Börsenverein’s new data, like other reports, indicates seriously declining consumer traffic in German city centers where many bookstores are located. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Livinus

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

Book Sales by Volume Down 3.0 Percent
In its report this morning (January 5), the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers’ and booksellers’ association, is offering first statistics on the German book business’ 2022 performance.

Book sales, by comparison to 2021, declined 2.1 percent in 2022, according to this newly released research conducted by Media Control for the “BUCH” industry monitor.

Sales in the German market’s central distribution channels–bookstores, e-commerce operations including, physical bookstores, department stores, electronic outlets and drugstores–came in 2.1-percent below the strong previous year’s performance: a gain of 3.5 percent in 2021 over 2020.

The number of books sold in Germany in 2022 fell by 3.0 percent by comparison to the previous year.

The physical bookstore trade—which had suffered from store closures for months in 2021 relative to the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic—has not yet been able to reach its pre-pandemic level again, the Börsenverein reports, but has regained sales. That retail sector closed 2022 with a sales increase of 4.8 percent compared to 2021.

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs

In reference to today’s news, Börsenverein chief Karin Schmidt-Friderichs says, “2022 was a challenging year for the book market. Bookstores and publishers have mastered the coronavirus pandemic with great commitment, innovative spirit, and customer proximity,” she says. “However, this time has been a major economic challenge for companies.

“The industry is now facing new hurdles due to procurement bottlenecks, rising production and energy costs, and a historic low in consumption. The general [level of] inflation means that book customers turn over every euro twice. In addition,” she says, “the [consumer activity] in the inner cities is low.

“It deserves great recognition that publishers and bookstores have shown their resilience despite these developments and are continuing their commitment to books and cultural diversity unabated. This is how we approach the new year with its challenges: energetically and confidently.”

“The industry is now facing new hurdles due to procurement bottlenecks, rising production and energy costs, and a historic low in consumption.”Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, Börsenverein

Schmidt-Friderichs’ references to inflationary pressures and faltering consumer confidence are borne out by news reports this week, some indicating that by year’s end, Germany had reached its highest inflation rate in 32 years.

Despite a slowdown of price hikes in December, writes Melissa Eddy in Berlin for The New York Times on Tuesday (January 3), “Germany ended 2022 with an overall inflation rate of 8.7 percent, the highest annual rate since the country’s reunification after the end of the Cold War in 1990 and up from just 3.2 percent in 2021, the federal statistics office said Tuesday. Policymakers remain concerned it could take well into next year before price pressures in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, stabilize.”

And also on Tuesday, the Börsenverein’s Börsenblatt reported on a newly released study of Germany’s inner cities’ losses of “a significant proportion of visitors.”

Particularly in smaller towns of 10,000 residents or fewer, the study warns of a potential 20-percent permanent loss in retail traffic. Compared to consumer activity in 2015, the survey sees a drop as deep as 35 percent among citizens 30 and younger.

“Shopping in the city center plays a central role only for 40 percent of younger people” the report says, by comparison to citizens 50 and older whose activity is running 12 percent below 2015 rates. This is a study made by CIMA Consulting and Management for the German Trade Association and the German Association of Industry and Commerce.

Fiction up 4.3 Percent; Nonfiction Down 8.7 Percent

Noting that book sales’ trends in 2022 tracked the overall market’s performance, the Börsenverein cites more comparisons to 2021:

  • Guidebooks’ sales declined by 6.8 percent
  • Nonfiction was down 8.7 percent
  • Children’s books and young-adult literature were down 3.3 percent, but the overall youth sector remained “well above the pre-pandemic level because of high growth in previous years”
  • On the other hand, fiction gained by 4.3 percent
  • Travel books–which the report notes took a major hit in earlier stages of the pandemic–logged welcome gains of 13.4 percent
Germany’s Bestsellers in 2022

Today’s report indicates that the bestselling novel of 2022 in hardcover was Eine Frage der Chemie (A Question of Chemistry) by Bonnie Garmus, published by Piper.

Mimik: Psychothriller by Sebastian Fitzek and published by Droemer Knaur followed in second place in fiction.

Author Dörte Hansen took third place in fiction with Zur See (To the Sea), published by Penguin Verlag.

Among nonfiction bestseller titles in hardcover, Kurt Krömer’s Du darfst nicht alles glauben, was du denkst: Meine Depression (You Must Not Believe Everything You Think: My Depression)  published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch took first place.

Marietta Slomka’s Nachts im Kanzleramt: Alles, was man schon immer über Politik wissen wollte (Nights in the Chancellery: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Politics) from Droemer Knaur was in second place in nonfiction.

And Die vierte Gewalt: Wie Mehrheitsmeinung gemacht wird, auch wenn sie keine ist (The Fourth Estate: How Majority Opinion Is Formed, Even if It Isn’t) by Richard David Precht and Harald Welzer, published by S. Fischer, was in third place in nonfiction in 2022.

Various trend indications and data released today are part of a broader, more complex picture which, on the Börsenverein’s usual schedule, we’ll be able to bring to you when it’s released in the summer. The “BUCH” industry monitor, based on Media Control’s data, is published monthly by the Börsenverein.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the German book market is here, more on book sales is here, more on bestsellers is here, and more on industry statistics is hereMore from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, which factors into this story, is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson 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 International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, 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.