Germany’s Ebook Report: Fewer Buyers, More ‘Intensity’

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Year-over-year, new data from GfK indicates a 7-percent drop in the number of Germany’s ebook buyers in the first half of the year.

Image: Getty iStockphoto: Flavio Vallenari

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

‘Intensity’ Refers to How Many Ebooks a Consumer Bought
In today’s report (September 25) from the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, makes its latest semi-annual update on ebook sales patterns.

The top-line finding is that in the first half of this year, ebook sales grew 3.3 percent over the second half of last year, when the gain was 3 percent. The previous year’s performance, 2021, had seen “a significant increase in demand” as part of the effects on sales during the coronavirus COVID1-19 pandemic. Indeed, in its 2022 industry statistics report, the Börsenverein reported, “Holding steady at 0.2 percent in 2022, ebooks saw no growth after their increase under the effects of the pandemic.”

Year-over-year, today’s news initially looks good, at least in terms of unit sales: “Around 22.1 million ebooks were sold” on the German market, “an increase of 6.1 percent compared to the first half of 2022.”

In this chart, the share of the overall market’s formats held by ebooks is at 7.9 percent of the whole. Image: Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels

Where some slippage is being observed, however, is in the number of buyers behind the figures.

In the text of today’s announcement, we read, “The number of buyers fell by 7.0 percent to around 2.3 million,” while in the first half of last year, “there were 2.5 million.”

In this range, a step-back from the market by what’s some 174,000 consumers is potentially significant. And in the graphic below, it’s clarified that the share of the ebook market’s buyers dropped to 3.5 percent of the wider buying population.

In this chart from the Börsenverein, we see a step-back from ebook buying by some 174,00 consumers in the first half of 2023, putting the share of ebook buyers at about 3.5 percent of the population. Image: Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels

It’s the level of purchasing per buyer that seems to continue to increase, the criterion often called “purchasing intensity.”

In the first six months of 2023, the report says, “Buyers purchased more ebooks per capita and also spent more: with 9.6 ebooks [per person], they bought more titles on average than in the same period last year  at 8.4 [per person]. Spending per buyer increased by 11.1 percent to €60.56 (US$64.15).”

The statistics for today’s update come, as usual, from the Börsenverein in cooperation with GfK entertainment. Projections of ebook sales and revenue come from the GfK Consumer Panel “MediaScope” book, which utilizes a sample of some 20,000 respondents who are representative of the German resident population aged 10 and older.

Each purchase of an ebook of €0.49 or older is recorded for purposes of this study.


A programming note: Among our Publishing Perspectives Forum events at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22) is a Frankfurt Wednesday discussion at 12 p.m. on “Engaging the Next Generation of Readers.” The conversation is moderated by Frankfurt’s States-based publicist Erin Cox, and features:

  • Maria Garbutt-Lucero, founder of ESEA Publishing Network and publicity director with Sceptre/Hodder & Stoughton, United Kingdom
  • Sean McManus, president of Dreamscape Media, United States
  • Jes Wolfe, CEO and chair of Rebel Girls, United States

As last year, the PP Forum is set in the bright, tree-lined Room Spektrum on Level 2 of the Messe Frankfurt Congress Center. More on the Forum and its programming is here, with information on our speakers and their appearances.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the German book market is here and more on international industry statistics is here. More on ebooks is here, and more on digital publishing is here. More on Germany’s Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, and our special programming there in the Publishing Perspectives Forum 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.