Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (the German Publishers and Booksellers Association) represents the interests of Germany's book industry in the political and public spheres. It was founded in Leipzig in 1825 and currently has roughly 4,500 members, which include booksellers, publishers, wholesalers and other media companies. As both a trade association and a cultural organisation, the Börsenverein works to promote books and reading whilst also fostering fair copyright laws and the preservation of Germany's policy of fixed book prices. It also seeks to promote cultural diversity and uphold the right to freedom of expression. Börsenverein runs the annual Frankfurt Book Fair and awards the annual Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the German Book Prize and the German Non-Fiction Prize.
The association also supports its members in the development of innovation and new business models. It leads the Börsenverein Group, which includes subsidiaries such as Frankfurt Book Fair, MVB GmbH (marketing and publishing services) and mediacampus frankfurt. The Börsenverein is a member of The International Publishers Association (IPA), The European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) and The Federation of European Publishers (FEP).
The German Publishers and Booksellers Association’s Foundation for Book Culture and the Promotion of Reading ("Stiftung Buchkultur und Leseförderung des Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels") supports culture and education in an open and pluralistic society.
As a nonprofit foundation, it initiates and implements projects with the goal to promote German literature, reading and the leading role of the book as well as working to improve levels of reading comprehension among children and teenagers. The foundation awards the German Book Prize and the German Non-Fiction Prize, hosts the Vorlesewettbewerb (a reading competition for children) and organises a book voucher campaign as part of World Book and Copyright Day.
When the 108 founding members of the Börsenverein voted for the first board members of the Deutsche Buchhändler-Börse in Leipzig on 30 April 1825, they had one thing in mind above all else: to simplify accounting procedures between publishers and booksellers. With the many different currencies in the German Confederation and separate account-keeping by orderers and suppliers, a central point for cashing-up was indispensable. So in its early years, the Börsenverein was designed to serve pure economic interests. To this it owes its name to this day: Börsenverein – Börse = bourse or exchange.
For its swiftly expanding membership, however, the rationalisation of everyday working activities was soon no longer enough as the main task for the Association – the Börsenverein became political, began to intervene on behalf of the future of books. As early as 1851, it had already drawn up a first memorandum on international copyright. Since then, the protection of intellectual property has been an important cornerstone of the Association's lobbying activities. If in the 19th century this involved above all the fight against pirate printing, the Börsenverein is dealing today with illegal downloads on the internet and the unlawful digitisation of millions of books by private companies such as Google. But its basic position is unchanged: the production and publication of literature and in turn, a diverse book market, depend on the prerequisite of strong copyright protection.
A key issue for the Börsenverein is that of fixed prices for the book as a cultural asset. This safeguards literary diversity and spurs on research and science. Regulations on fixed shop prices for books came into force in 1888, the year in which the offices of the Börsenverein moved into the Büchhändlerhaus in Leipzig. They ensure that publishing houses can balance out opportunities and risks and in that way, use the proceeds from a bestseller to promote new authors, to publish titles on unusual topics and to carry out literary experiments. And they contribute to ensuring that this diversity is also reflected in the book trade. But the Börsenverein has had to fight for more than 200 years for a law on fixed prices. It was not until 2002 that fixed prices for all books were finally laid down by law.
The Third Reich, the Second World War, the division of Germany, reunification – political and social upheavals have been decisive in influencing the Börsenverein. Having been set up in 1825 as the first German business association with authority across confederate borders, from 1933 on, it aligned its structure to political programmes and boundaries.
Forcing itself voluntarily into line, as it were, in 1933 the Börsenverein became an accomplice of the Nazi rulers. To a large degree, the book trade in the German Reich conformed to the system during the subsequent twelve years of the Nazi regime. In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, Germany began to be divided into the two camps of East and West. In addition, the occupying powers were against any kind of centralism and blocked an organisational structure going beyond the regional level. So after 1945, the Börsenverein members in areas controlled by the Western Allies initially affiliated in local and district groups. These gradually organised themselves into regional associations, until in 1950, all West German publishers and booksellers combined in the Börsenverein Deutscher Buchhändler- und Verleger-Verbände in Frankfurt am Main. In the Soviet-run part of Germany, the Leipzig Börsenverein resumed its activities in 1946.
Both associations existed side by side. Initial talks on representing one another's interests in Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig were begun in 1982, aiming to boost the exchange of books between East and West. Five years later, books titles from the GDR were included for the first time in the West German Books-in-Print Catalogue. In 1991, a year after German reunification, the East German and the West German Börsenverein merged to form the all-German overall association with its headquarters in Frankfurt am Main.
Since 1972, the Börsenverein has had company membership, whilst previously, membership had been personal. Roughly 5,000 publishing companies, bookshops and intermediate book trade businesses are now affiliated in the association. Internationally, this makes the Börsenverein the only organisation which represents the interests of books and brings together all three branches of the book trade under one roof. As the mouthpiece of the entire German book industry, this structure gives it a powerful voice in the political arena.
But its commitment to the book goes far beyond commercial and political interests. Efforts made to achieve reconciliation and agreement, the promotion of reading at an early age and awards made to outstanding German-language literature: with its activities in the fields of culture, education and science, the Börsenverein acts in support of the book as the pre-eminent medium in society.
Its most important award is the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Since 1950, the Börsenverein has presented the Peace Prize to individuals whose literary, artistic or academic work has served to advance the cause of peace. As a new beginning after the Second World War, the Börsenverein wanted this award to serve as evidence of a political attitude. So from the outset, the Prize attracted considerable attention in other countries too. To this day, the Peace Prize reflects reference to values and change in values in society. It is presented annually during the Book Fair at a ceremony held in Frankfurt's Paulskirche.