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Thursday, July 12, 2012

eBooks source of hope in German publishing

So far, figures don't justify optimism, but ...

Publishing Perspectives reports that though Germany’s book market is among the three largest in the world, e-books still represent a very small percentage of overall sales.

According to German publishers, e-books accounted for an average of 6.2% of total sales in 2011, compared to 5.4% in 2010. Hardly a huge rise.

Yet, a study released last month reveals that e-books are now seen as an inevitable part of the German book market – and a source of hope.  “The e-book market looks promising in Germany,” said Steffen Meier, spokesman for the Arbeitskreis Elektronisches Publizieren, part of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels. “[It] is currently only profitable for a small minority of market players, but publishers and book retailers still have to invest in the first place. However, the outlook for 2015 is good."

“Interest in reading is as strong as ever and the desire for e-books is growing steadily. However, after seven years of continuous revenue increases, the economic fluctuations that have impacted business in recent years have now also reached the book market”, said Alexander Skipis, head of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, last month in Frankfurt am Main during a presentation of the Börsenverein’s most recent e-book study. “E-book sales have doubled compared to 2010. These growing sales still can’t compensate for the current decline in the market, but the course has been set. Because of this, publishers and booksellers are no longer wondering if they should invest in e-books, but rather when.

Exactly when depends on device, price, and availability.  A major hitch in Germany is that while printed books attract 7% VAT, prices of eBooks include a massive 19% VAT charge.  This is general throughout Europe, as it is a directive issued from Brussells, but a rebellion is shaping up, headed by France, which defied the EU rules by reducing the VAT on eBooks to 5.5% in January.

Predictably, perhaps, Germans have a distinct preference for tablet readers, with all the bells and whistles included.  Also predictably, Amazon is contesting this with vigor -- announced at the start of 2012 that the Kindle, which was introduced to the German market in September 2011 at a price point of €99, was its top-selling product of 2011.

In a sign that business is moving briskly ahead, in early December 2011, of the top 20 bestselling titles on the charts in Der Spiegel, 95% of hardcovers and 80% of paperbacks were also available as e-books.

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