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eBooks Reached 2.4% of the German Book Market in 2012

3445987681_f8642012e7[1]The market research firm GfK has a new report out this morning with a new estimate of the German ebook market, and depending on how you look at it the report is either good news or bad news.

Gfk now believes that ebook sales accounted for 2.4% of the German book market in 2012. That is a significant increase over the estimated 1% market share in 2011, but it still falls far short of the growth seen in other markets.

This number may appear to be disappointingly small (ebooks were 21.67% of US market in 2012), but let me put it into perspective

Consider for a moment the growth of the US ebook market in the early Kindle years. According to the AAP, ebook sales made up 1.18% of the US book market in 2008 and 3.17% in 2009.

That 2009 figure is particularly important because it represents the US market when it was only 2 years into the Kindle era; that is where Germany is right now.

While Amazon did launch an international Kindle in 2009, Amazon, Kobo, and other ebooksellers only really started investing in the German ebook market in 2011. Kobo launched in Germany in July 2011, and Amazon launched a local Kindle Store there in April 2011.

Germany is really only 2 years into the Kindle era, so it should come as no surprise that the ebook market share is still as small as it is.

And given the recent investments in this ebook market, it is bound to grow. Most of the major ebooksellers (Apple, Google, Amazon) and Kobo have opened ebookstores in Germany in the past couple years,  and earlier this year a local coalition, Tolino,  formed and launched a new shared ebookstore platform and ereader.

But in spite of my hopes for growth, the German ebook market is still facing a serious supply issue. The selection of available titles is still limited, with GfK reporting that only 54 percent of all new titles and 29% of publisher’s backlist available as ebooks. Less than half of the ebooks that a consumer might want to buy are available digitally, and that is likely dampening the ebook adoption rate.

image by Robert Couse-Baker

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Hannes June 13, 2013 um 10:21 am

I think the reason for the delay in the growth of the eBook market in Germany should be mentioned. In Germany there is a book price control, so there is no competition between book stores based on pricing. Furthermore the legal situation for eBooks is/was ambiguous and due this investments were not attractive.

Eskapistin June 13, 2013 um 11:18 am

I personally believe that one problem for the German ebook market lies in the structure of the "Boersenverein" (the associtation of booksellers and publishers): As it represents the traditional booksellers as well as book publishers, it is quite reluctant to fully support ebooks, as they threaten the business model of many of its members.
If they would decide to fully promote ebooks, they might be able to help especially small and medium publishers to enter this market (technical support etc).

The other point is the "myth" of the book as a medium of high culture, as opposed to the "low" new media. For example a popular columnist of a big newspaper used to argue heavily against digital reading.

But I still believe it is getting better, slowly but steadily.
And luckily, I personally prefer reading English books, so I don’t really care about new titles in German languiage 😉

Knut June 14, 2013 um 3:35 am

It`s GfK, not GtK

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