Earlier this week, the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, the trade association representing German publishers and booksellers, released its annual financial report for 2016. Overall, revenue was up 1% over 2015, hitting €9.28 billion ($10.41 billion) in revenue. The largest segment seeing gains was children's books, which saw a sales hike of 9% over the previous year.
The report indicated foot traffic at German bookstores was down, with customers continuing to shift to online outlets. To that end, online book sales were up 5.3%, and now account for 18.2 % of the market, up from 17.4% in 2015. Bricks-and-mortar bookstores' share of the overall market fell to 47.3%, down from 48.2% the year before.
Similar to what's happened in other markets (including the U.S.), ebook sales have essentially plateaued, with the overall market share for ebooks growing only slightly, from 4.5% in 2015 to 4.6% in 2016. The slow growth was partially blamed on a decline in the number of ebook customers. Matthias Heinrich, a member of the board of the Börsenverein, added that ebook readers are also "turning increasingly towards less expensive offers."
Alexander Skipis, CEO of the Börsenverein, said that "in spite of major changes in the media landscape, the book market has displayed a notable degree of stability." Nonetheless, he said, booksellers are concerned about "a truly distressing drop in customer frequency" and publishers "are facing enormous pressure." Speaking to the pressure facing publishers, Skipis cited the German government's consideration of passing a bill that would mandate textbooks and scientific materials by "distributed digitally and published to a large extent free-of-charge."
As part of an ongoing trend over the last decade, publishers continued to curtail the number of new books they publish. This dropped from 76,547 in 2015 to 72,820 in 2016, a fall of 5%. One area that did grow in number of titles published was translations, which hit 9,882 in 2016 and accounted for 13.6% of all books published (up from a 12.4% share in 2015). The most translated languages were English, French and Japanese.