Media & Makers

Germany and DACH ebook market: a look at the 2020/2021 data.

The latest Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels report covering 1H 2021 and a look at the
Digital Consumer Book Barometer 01/2021. What impact did the pandemic have on an already mature market?

Ebook market data Germany. 1H 2021.

Source: Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, the Federal Association of German Bookshops.

In Germany, the demand for ebooks continued in the wake of the Corona pandemic. Yet, it did not explode: sales climbed by 8.3 per cent from 18.8 to 20.3 million copies sold, mainly during the “hard Lockdown” that lasted until April 2021. Growth stagnated in the months after (turnover: +0.2 per cent, sales: +2.1 per cent).

More important, the number of buyers more or less stayed the same: the German ebook buyers are around 2.7 million. Those buyers bought more titles, both in 2020 and 2021. With 7.6 copies per capita (first half of 2020: 6.9 copies), the purchase intensity increased by 9.7 per cent. Per capita spending increased by 11.0 per cent.

Germany is an ebook market with peculiar traits: 40 per cent of ebook consumption happens via public libraries loans. To this channel you need to add the emerging subscription services mixing podcasts and audiobooks such as Spotify. So, a relatively mature market is now changing its business model, not knowing yet what impact this will have on the German publishing economy.


Digital Book Barometer 2021.

The Digital Consumer Book Barometer is a yearly report sponsored by Bookwire, the German-based leading solution for the production, distribution and marketing of eBooks and audiobooks.

The report I attach to this post is an interim view, with an update planned for 4Q 2021, focused on the impact of the pandemic in 2020 on non-English markets: Canada, Italy, Spain, the DACH region, Brazil, Mexico. Not a comprehensive study, the report provides some insights into the overall development of pricing, distribution means and business models.

In this post, I use some of the data to get a closer look at the DACH region (Germany, Switzerland, Austria) and compare it to Italy.

While the lockdown has been a propeller of ebook sales in Italy, the overall increase in ebook sales did not show a spectacular peak in the more mature german-speaking markets, but prolonged a mid-term upwards trend:

Sticking to Italy vs DACH comparison, the difference in price points is still remarkable: it has lots to do with the market maturity and the vast availability of genres, including essays and professional titles, in the DACH markets (where the price point can go over 20 euros).

  • Italy registered a peak of sales in 2020 among the lowest price points, in the range between 2 and 2.99 euros.
  • For the DACH markets, the sweet spots of 2020 have been between 11.99 euros to 14.99 euros.
More interesting has been the boom of audiobooks: for them, as for podcasts, 2020 has been a breakthrough year.

We know that: the spoken word has become a consumption habit that goes across media and genre: who starts into podcasts develops a higher propensity to consume ebooks.

Traditional ebook consumers enjoy voice experience on the smart speakers. Journalistic podcast listeners transition naturally to listening to audio articles. No doubt about it: the future of publishing is audio.

Back to the market data: audiobook consumption had already experienced a robust growth perspective for several years, which received a sensible acceleration in the first half of 2020, at the time of the first lockdown. In almost all markets covered by the report, the growth slowed down during the summer break: we all took a media break in summer 2020, but that break did not disrupt the overall trends. So, ebooks and audiobooks found new audiences in 2020 and became relevant outside of bestselling literary and genre fiction.

But the actual change of the game came from platforms like Spotify invest massively in audiobooks, bringing them into their subscription models. That offer met users now perfectly comfortable subscribing to almost any type of media.

The digital consumer book barometer.

All segments and all media verticals seem fit to expand into a subscription business. As for music and movies, the debate about cannibalization and sustainable business models is already on. But this consumer behaviour is here to stay. So, if you are a publisher, better for you to think, prepare and experiment to develop your own subscription business.


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