At Leipzig Book Fair: Young Germans’ Engagement With Books and Reading

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Results of a new study presented at Leipzig Book Fair show young Germans reading more but buying fewer books at higher prices.

At the 2024 Leipzig Book Fair. Image: LBM

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

Kraus vom Cleff: ‘Strong Offerings To Promote Reading’
Among the many events at the just-closed Leipzig Book Fair—the Leipzig Book Fair, which closed on Sunday (March 24)—a presentation of the results of a new study indicated that among German children, teens, and young adults, “spending is growing significantly.

“At the same time,” the project’s authors write, “young people today come into contact with reading books later than before. The boundaries between the genres in demand are becoming increasingly blurred. And reading in the original language plays a major role,” a point that’s becoming increasingly of concern to many who work in the international translation rights trade.

“The bookstore is still the most important point of contact for new books,” the study tells us, “even if recommendations on the Internet and social media are now important sources of inspiration.”

The report, from GfK and the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, is titled Bock auf Buch, “Fancy a Book: How Young People Find and Buy Books Today.” its development had the support of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft von Jugendbuchverlagen (AVJ), the German Association of Young Adult Book Publishers, and looked at input from young readers aged 10 t0 29 and parents aged 30 and older who said their children are interested in books.

Buyers and Copies Fall, Prices Rise

At the 2024 Leipzig Book Fair. Image: LBM

Among key findings:

  • Spending on books for children and teens in Germany increased by 7.4 percent to €672 million (US$728 million) between 2019 and 2023.
  • In the same period, the number of books sold for children and teens fell from €66.6 million to €58.3 million or -12.6 percent (US$72.17 million to $63.18 million).
  • The average price paid for books in this genre rose by 22.8 percent, from €9.40 to €11.53 per book (US$10.19 to $12.50)—which, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, represents a trend
  • toward rising book prices in at least several world markets.
  • The number of buyers of books for children and teens fell by 1.5 percent from 11.7 to 11.5 million.
  • The number of copies purchased per buyer fell from 5.7 to 5.1, but expenditure per buyer rose from €53.50 to €58.29 (US$57.98 to $63.17).

What’s more, an interesting core-study look at 19-year-olds, spending by and for that group (the 19-year-olds themselves and gifts for them) jumped around 32 percent between 2019 and 2023, from €601 million to €793 million (US$651 million to $859 million).

Readers aged 13 to 15 were tracked spending 65 percent more on books than before, and those aged 16 to 19 spent 77 percent more.

Several more standout figures, quoting from the material as presented to the news media:

  • “The parental home and school have the greatest influence on independent book reading among young people. However, there are signs of a shift: Whereas the ritual of being read to by parents or grandparents helped to inspire 77 percent of today’s 20- to 29-year-old readers to read, the figure is only 67 percent for today’s 10- to 15-year-old readers.
  • “At the same time, reading at school is becoming increasingly important for igniting enthusiasm for books. Among today’s 10- to 15-year-olds, school was a trigger for 70 percent; among today’s 20 to 29-year-olds, this was only the case for 60 per cent.
  • “Printed books are by far the most popular format across all age groups, regardless of whether they’re reading themselves or being read to. Some 97 percent of 10- to 19-year-olds and 96 percent of 20- to 29-year-olds said they read printed books, while 97 percent of parents say they also rely on the paper format for books for their children.
  • “Ebooks and audiobooks are also used, but with clearer differences between the age groups. Audiobooks for children are particularly popular among parents.”
Reading Books in Their Original Languages

Some 14 percent of 10- to 15-year-old readers told researchers that they read books in their original version very frequently or frequently, while the proportion is even twice as high among 16- to 19-year-olds, at 30 percent. The main reasons for this in this age group (and also overall), respondents told researchers, were to improve language skills (82 percent) and that jokes, puns or something else gets lost in translation (73 per cent).

Fully 41 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds cited the fact that the book is only or was previously only available in the original version as a reason.

Among 20 to 29-year-olds, around a fifth (18 percent) said they also regularly read the original version and 14 percent of parents said that they very often read aloud to their children in the original (foreign) language of the book.

Some of this is, of course, good news to German publishing professionals who have been concerned by several years of negative survey results on young citizens’ reading skills.

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

Peter Kraus vom Cleff, the Börsenverein general manager, is quoted, saying, “Books are still very important to young people. The book is perceived as a reliable and reputable source of facts—despite or perhaps because of the large amount of information available online.

“However, the results of the study also make it clear that there is a need for action: The fact that young people today are starting to read books later shows that we need strong offerings to promote reading both outside of the parental home and for the parental home.

“In addition, an overarching political strategy is needed to counteract the progressive deterioration of the educational situation in Germany. Since the bookstore is still the No. 1 point of contact for new books among young readers and parents, municipalities must also focus on the revitalization of inner cities.”

And Cheek Publishing House’s Bernd Herzog, says, “How young people become aware of books and what they read is changing. Publishers and the book trade are preparing for these developments and the study provides important insights. The result that children today often only discover the joy of reading at school proves the need that the AVJ had already highlighted with the ‘Frankfurt Declaration’ in 2022: daycare, class, school, and institute libraries, which are largely inadequate in [available]  books, urgently need financial resources to increase their holdings.

“The study deals with young people who already read. And the number of children who cannot read or read is growing. Therefore, the teaching of literature should be more firmly anchored in extracurricular care offerings.”

The study includes two modules: The figures on market development come from the Consumer Panel MediaScope with a total of 20,000 people. They are representative of the German resident population aged 10 and older, for a total of 65.9 million people.

In addition, readers with a connection to children’s and young adult books or young/new adults, as well as parents of children who use books, were asked about their purchasing behavior. The statements from 1,368 people aged 10 and over form the data basis here.

At the 2024 Leipzig Book Fair. Image: LBM

More from Publishing Perspectives about international book fairs and similar events is here. More on Leipzig Book Fair is here, more on the German market is here, and more on industry statistics 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.

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