Posted on July 22, 2013 in Archive

Tolino makes German digital book market shine


In March this year Deutsche Telekom, in partnership with 5 major publishers and booksellers, launched a new, purely German, digital reader.

The Tolino Shine is the product of a union between the telecommunications company, bookstore chains Thalia, Weltbild and Hugendubel, and mass media corporation, Bertlesmann.

Sold in almost 12,500 bookstores in Germany and Austria, the Tolino is being touted as Germany’s best bet to take on digital publishing giant, Amazon.

Digital books have only been available in German bookstores for the last two years, and ever since the launch of Kindle and Kobo in Germany, experts have been encouraging small and medium sized publishers to compete with American owned Amazon.

Germans have always had a strong bond with physical books and as such, digital book sales in the nation that developed the printing press have been slower than in other parts of the world.

Recently, however, the German digital publishing industry has experienced growth and an increase in value.

In 2012 digital book sales accounted for 2.4% of total book sales in Germany, which although it seems like a small amount, is a significant rise from 0.8% in 2011 and 0.5% in 2010.

A recent survey of 361 German publishers revealed that digital books account for 9% of overall sales, which is an increase of 2.8% on 2012’s figures.

And according to research by BITKOM, an approximate 1.4 million digital books will be sold in 2013, compared to the million or so sold last year.

This increase in German digital book sales can be attributed to three main changes within the industry: publishers are finally offering front-list titles when physical books are printed; publishers and booksellers have recognised the need for diversified content; and a decline in the retail book trade.

Geman digital book - Picture of Tolino Shine

Germany’s shiny new e-reader


The launch of the Tolino Shine may also have something to do with the rising popularity of digital books.

Just last month, two of the retailers that make up the Tolino consortium released a statement boasting about the success of the product in its first 100 days on the market.

Weltbild and Hugendubel didn’t provide specific numbers, however, they did reveal that since its launch the Tolino has generated sales in the high five-figure range.

According to some estimates, the Tolino currently holds around 45% of the market share and this is mainly thanks to its impressive family tree.

But will the powerful tech and publishing companies behind the product be able to maintain and improve on this impressive sales streak?

Their goal is to popularise digital books in Germany, and by banding together, take on Amazon’s Kindle.

Are they likely to be successful, or is Amazon just too ubiquitous?

At the moment Amazon doesn’t offer as many German titles as, say American titles, and that’s a bone of contention for a lot of German readers.

The German Kindle store is home to about 150, 000 German language titles, whereas Tolino readers have access to 300, 000 titles.

If the Tolino consortium continues to expand their library, they will be well placed to outsell Kindles.

The content model is an important element of the success of any device, and so long as the Tolino is marketed towards a German audience, it has the capacity to overcome issues that Amazon in America never faced.

As I said, brick and mortar stores in Germany are a dime a dozen and are extremely well loved. On top of that, the VAT prices are so inconsistent for physical and digital books that many people simply refuse to buy the latter.

These issues have never been a problem for Amazon and, although they did impact heavily on the digital publishing market in Germany in the early days, publishers are beginning to find ways around them.

Just as Germans were slow to toss aside hardback novels for their softer successors, they’ve been unhurried to embrace digital books, but as recent statistics indicate, the market is shifting quite significantly.

And I think this will work in the Tolino Shine’s favour, putting it in the right place at the right time.