On Tuesday Boersenverein published new estimates for the German ebook market. According to surveys conducted by GfK, an estimated 3.9 million people bought ebooks in Germany last year, or about 5.7% of Germany's total population aged 10 years and up. Fiction made up the largest share of purchases (86%), followed by non-fiction (5%), and guides (5%).
Roughly the same number of people bought ebooks in Germany in 2015 as in 2014, which is a problem because GfK has also reported that they aren't buying a whole lot more ebooks than before.
According to GfK, ebooks made up 4.5% of total book purchases in Germany last year, up from 4.3% in 2014 (and 3.9% in 2013).
That's frustrating news for any author or publisher hoping to reach digital readers in Germany, but it's not entirely unexpected. Past survey reports from GfK have suggested that the German ebook market grew quickly in the first half of 2015, before slowing in the second half. For example, ebooks made up an estimated 5.6% of the German ebook market in the period ending June 2015, up from 4.9% in the first half of 2014.
That is a far higher growth rate than GfK is reporting for the year, and if that trend continues we could see a spurt of growth in the first half of 2016, but it is just as likely that the slowdown from the second half of the year will stick around.
On the other hand, this report from Boersenverein is missing several important details. For example, we don't know how many paper books were bought in Germany in 2015. Did the print book market surge past the ebook market, or did the paper book market contract?
Without that context, we can't tell whether the German ebook market is growing or not.
Really, the only clue we can use to tell the health of the market is the 3.9 million German ebook buyers. And even that is only marginally useful; it doesn't tell us how many Germans are _reading_ ebooks.
A grand total of 25,000 German consumers were surveyed for the most recent GfK report. They were chosen as a representative sample of the German population aged ten years and up (a total of 67.7 million people).
image by LIS-Corner 2009