Posted on May 8, 2013 in Archive

Germany’s increasing adoption of digital publications

Germany has a rich history of bibliophilia and is home to the largest book market in Europe. Interestingly, the nation has been slow to embrace digital books. Currently, digital book sales make up a mere 1% of the total market and this scant take-up can be attributed to three main factors.


Germany (in line with most of Europe) has a law of fixed pricing, which applies to print and digital books. This system means that books aren’t subject to sales or discounts, and must be sold at consistent prices across all platforms. Additionally, there is a discrepancy between VAT prices for print and digital books. Print books are taxed at 7%, whereas digital books are taxed at 19%, and this inequitable pricing serves as a disincentive for readers to buy the latter.


In the past, publishers in Germany have been reluctant to provide readers with a digital option. For example, while Amazon provides around 650, 000 digital titles to American readers, they only have about 25, 000 digital German titles available. Likewise, the company that professes to be the largest distributor of digital books in Germany- Libreka- only has about 40, 000 German language digital books in their catalogue of over 275, 000 digital books.


According to another article, the story behind Germany’s minimal digital book sales lies in the fact that physical books are an ingrained part of the German way of life. The printing press was invented in Germany, and still to this day, publishers put a lot of time, money, and effort into printing superior books. Moreover, the German public is fiercely loyalty to these local publishers and the books they produce.

Sketch of printing press - Germany digital publications

Traditional means of publishing

Germans took almost a decade to warm to the idea of paperbacks, and experts predict that it might be a similar story for digital books. In order to make this leap from print to digital, however, there will need to be a significant decrease in the cost of digital books and an increase in their availability. Recent trends indicate that the digital book market in Germany is slowly starting to grow, and that there has been enough public interest in digital books to warrant these changes.

An example of this growing public interest is documented in this article about the Leipzing Book Fair in April. Over 168, 000 people attended the fair, and the overall attitude was one of excitement and interest in all things digital. In line with this sentiment, publishers are starting to get on board, with 67% of the largest German publishing houses starting to incorporate digital books into their business plans.

A study by Börsenverein and GfK market research from the beginning of this year said that digital books are an inevitable part of the German publishing market. This is supported by the fact that for the first time in years, print book sales in Germany saw a 1.4% decrease at the end of 2011, and the percentage of digital books sold between 2011 and 2012 doubled.

Slowly but surely, Germany, the biggest reading nation in the world, is finally starting to embrace digital publications. One of the most interesting elements of this transformation is the number of possibilities it might open up throughout the rest of Europe. This article alludes to the idea that Germany’s adoption of digital might lead to a ‘digital bug’ engulfing the rest of the continent.

Next week, Akademie des Deutschen Buchhandels is hosting ‘The Fifth Mobile Publishing Conference’ in Munich. Liquid State CEO, Philip Andrews will be making an appearance at the conference. His presentation is titled, ‘Future Proofing the Production Workflow- Challenges to Cross Device and Cross Platform Publishing’ and positions are still available for anyone interested in attending the event. For more information about the conference, visit the this website.