Germany’s 2022 Book Market Report: Turnover Down 1.9 Percent

In News by Porter Anderson

The German book market faces a perplexing set of circumstances, resulting in an overall performance down 1.9 percent in 2022.

German book industry sales overall, charted from 2027 through 2022. Image: Börsenverein

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

German Rights Sales Dip 14.4 Percent in 2022
This morning (July 5), the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, has reported that the 2022 overall turnover was down 1.9 percent, the result of the German book market laboring under a three-part challenge of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, supply-chain problems, and a consumer slump.

At mid-year, the 2023 statistics are mixed: turnover “in the central sales channels” is up by 4.1 percent, and yet that’s 1.0 percent below 2019’s level with “sales declining by 7.9 percent amid prices that are up by 9.7 percent over those of 2019. “The local book trade is even more clearly behind the pre-pandemic level,” according to the data provided today. “Turnover in the first six months of 2023 was 5.2 percent below that of the same period in 2022, sales at 14 percent.”

Of key interest to many of our international Publishing Perspectives readers, translation rights sales have taken an especially heavy hit: In 2022, German publishers sold 14.4 percent fewer book licenses abroad than in 2021. In this, the Börsenverein points directly at “the economic consequences of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine,” Russia having previously been a “major buyer” of German books, “especially of books for children and young adults.”

In 2021, 676 rights deals reportedly were made between German publishers and Russia, compared to only 236 deals in 2022. Russia, as a rights buying market of German titles, has slipped in a single year from second place to 10th.

China’s activity in the licensing sphere is problematic for Germany, as well. “As a result of China’s ‘zero-COVID’ strategy,” today’s report has it, “the licensing business with this country was also still subject to major restrictions in 2022. The number of license deals with China fell from 1,318 in 2021 to 825 in 2022. However, China remains in first place among the most important licensees” of German books, “followed by Italy and the Czech Republic.”

‘These Global Crises’

Book production in Germany in 2022, left to right: domestic first editions, translations from other languages, and international rights/licenses bought. Image: Börsenverein

In the Börsenverein’s annual early-July news conference, Peter Kraus vom Cleff and Karin Schmidt-Friderichs have presented a nuanced picture of an industry “tackling the challenges with determination and building a bridge between digital and analogue.” The spirit is willing, in other words, although the news is hardly stellar.

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs

“We live in challenging times,” Schmidt-Friderichs told members of the news media, “socially as well as economically.

“The book industry is feeling the effects of these global crises, but is standing its ground with great resolve. After all, in complex times, books can provide guidance, reliable information, and inspiring stories. During the pandemic, publishers, bookstores, and book distribution companies proved to be reliable suppliers of books, and this has had an impact on consumer behavior and market structures.

“In many areas, developments are now returning to normal, but some changes are permanent: the digitization push, which is particularly evident in the online stores of bookstores, the boom in digital audiobook formats, and the close ties to customers forged by many bookstores during the pandemic.”

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

Kraus vom Cleff said, “The past year was marked by procurement bottlenecks, an immense increase in manufacturing and energy costs, and high inflation. The pandemic has also accelerated the process of inner-city desolation. The situation is recovering only slowly or hardly at all.

“Many companies in our industry are working at their limit economically. Small publishing houses in particular, whose titles lost out during the pandemic to well-known authors and bestsellers, are suffering huge losses while costs remain high.

“It’s therefore crucial that politicians now quickly implement the support for publishers that they promised in the coalition agreement. In addition, we need viable concepts and initiatives to revive the footfall in cities and municipalities.”

Factors in the 2022 German Book Market Report

German 2022 book-sale shares by channel. Image: Börsenverein

We’ll bullet out key points from the Börsenverein’s read-out.

Economic Points

  • The industry generated a total turnover of €9.44 billion in 2022 over 2021’s €9.63 billion (US$10.3 billion in 2022 over 10.5 billion in 2021)
  • Physical bookstores, still the largest sales channel for books in Germany, regained sales after the losses caused by extensive store closures during the pandemic period in 2022
  • Compared to 2021, turnover at physical stores increased in 2022 by 5.0 percent to €3.95 billion (US$4.3 billion)
  • This gives these stores a share of 41.9 percent of turnover, as opposed to 39.1 percent in 2021
  • Compared to the universal pre-pandemic benchmark year of 2019, however, trade from physical stores is still 7.9 percent behind
  • In the case of Internet book retail, the development is in reverse to that seen in physical stores—after large increases during the pandemic, turnover in online trade (of which about half is accounted for by the online stores of physical bookstores) declined
  • Online retail turnover in 2022 fell by 12.6 percent from €2.61 billion to €2.28 billion (US$2.8 billion to US$2.5 billion)
  • The share of turnover of book sales in the total market was 24.1 percent in 2022 compared to 27.1 percent in 2021
  • However, the digital boost from the coronavirus pandemic is still having an effect: Compared to 2019, the year before the outbreak of the pandemic, online retail still had 22.8 percent more turnover in 2022
  • Almost all book sectors were seen in decline in 2022, with three exceptions: Fiction, the largest product group with a 34-percent share of turnover, recorded a 4.4 percent increase compared to the previous year. Educational books and study guides gained 2.5-percent turnover over 2021; and travel literature, which suffered the most during the pandemic, increased by 16.5 percent

Digital Formats

  • Holding steady at 0.2 percent in 2022, ebooks saw no growth after their increase under the effects of the pandemic
  • Overall, ebooks accounted for 6 percent of turnover in the general market (which does not include textbooks and reference)
  • Some 3 million people bought ebooks in Germany in 2022, down about 400,000 from 2021
  • In audiobooks, turnover rose by 6.6 percent in 2022 over 2021—a gain of 35.2 percent over 2019’s figures
  • In 2022, downloaded audio accounted for 49.3 percent of audiobook sales; streaming accounted for 38.5 percent; and the fast-fading hard-copy CD format held 13.3 percent of the audiobook market
  • Compared to 2019, downloaded audiobooks have risen 61.1 percent and streaming audiobooks have jumped 154.9 percent, with CDs continuing their fall by 53.8 percent compared to 2019 numbers
Book-Buying Consumers

German audiobook sales in 2022. Image: Börsenverein

  • Germany’s book-buying population continued to dwindle in 2022.
  • The Börsenverein sees a drop of some 1.4 million buyers in 2022, taking the total down to 25.8 million overall
  • In the younger ranks being specially targeted by the industry, fewer buyers appear to be stepping forward, but they’re buying more, a factor called “purchasing intensity”: In 2022, consumers aged 16 to 29 bought an average 11.7 books per consumer, a rise of 24 percent over 2017 with a jump in average expenditure of 8 percent
  • An interesting statistic: One in every four euros spent on books by those aged 16 to 29 reportedly was “inspired” by social media, coming in at about 28 percent of this demographic’s buys

Titles and Translations Published

  • First editions, today’s data indicates, remained stable in 2022, following declines during pandemic conditions, and in 2022, Germany published 63,992 new titles, up a bit over the 64,278 new titles published in 2021
  • Translated titles also rose after a two-year slowdown, with 9,403 translated titles in 2022 over 8,703 in 2021
  • Of all new publications, 14.6 percent were translated titles in 2022, up from 13.6 percent in 2021

Methodology

Media Control again this year is the source of figures on the shares and changes in turnover of the product categories in 2022 as well as the figures on development of sales, price, and turnover in 2023. An audiobook monitor mounted by Media Control is also the source information on that format.

The GfK Consumer Panel Media Scope Book is the source for consumer data as well as numbers on ebook development.

All other figures are based on surveys and calculations by the Börsenverein.

Impact of social media as a source of attention. Image: Börsenverein


More from Publishing Perspectives on the German book market is here and more on international industry statistics is here. More on audiobooks is here, more on ebooks is here, and more on bookstores is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, which is flagged by the Börsenverein in today’s report, 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.com, 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.