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The Book Market in Germany 2022/23: Book industry committed and self-confident in the face of a challenging world and economic situation

Consumer spending restraint also evident in the book market, turnover down 1.9 per cent in 2022 / After the pandemic: turnover in local bookstores rises again; online turnover declines year-on-year, but gains compared to pre-Corona times /
Erstellt am 05.07.2023

The Corona pandemic was followed by procurement bottlenecks, an energy crisis and a consumer slump: In times of multiple crises, the book industry is tackling the challenges with determination and is building a bridge between digital and analogue. Looking at the overall turnover of the industry, the effects of the general consumer restraint are also noticeable on the book market: Industry turnover fell by 1.9 per cent in 2022 compared to the previous year. The 2023 mid-year results are somewhat ambiguous. Although turnover across all sales channels is 4.1 per cent higher than in the first six months of 2022 - fewer books are being sold compared to the pre-pandemic period and there is still a significant gap in turnover for local bookstores. These and other key economic figures were presented today by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers and Booksellers Association).

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, Chairwoman of the Börsenverein says: "We live in challenging times - socially as well as economically. The book industry is also feeling the effects of the global crises, but is standing its ground with great resolve. After all, in complex times, books can provide guidance, reliable information and inspiring stories. During the pandemic, publishers, bookstores and book logistics companies proved to be reliable suppliers of books, and this has had an impact on consumer behaviour and market structures. In many areas, developments are now returning to normal, but some changes are permanent: the digitalisation push, which is particularly evident in the online stores of bookstores, the boom in digital audiobook formats and the close ties to customers which local bookstores forged during the pandemic." 

However, the new and ever-changing crises continue to burden the industry. Peter Kraus vom Cleff, Managing Director of the Börsenverein explains: "The past year was marked by procurement bottlenecks, an immense increase in manufacturing and energy costs and high inflation. The pandemic has also accelerated the process of inner-city desolation. The situation is recovering only slowly or hardly at all. Many companies in our industry are working at their limit economically. Small publishing houses in particular, whose titles lost out during the pandemic to well-known authors and bestsellers, are suffering huge losses while costs remain high. It is therefore crucial that politicians now quickly implement the support for publishers that they promised in the coalition agreement. In addition, we need viable concepts and initiatives to revive the footfall in cities and municipalities."

Opportunity to reach young target groups - The challenge of promoting reading

Young people are eager to buy and are interested in books - this is also confirmed by the figures presented today. Karin Schmidt-Friderichs explains: "It makes us optimistic that young people are committed to buying books and that they explore book topics intensively, for example on TikTok. The industry is actively addressing this target group by creating a link between digital formats and the local trade. Bookstores, for example, present the titles and authors that are trending on BookTok with book tables and promotions in the bookstores. Many bookstores and publishers are also active on TikTok themselves. The KulturPass for 18-year-olds, launched by the Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth, also offers great opportunities to get young people excited about books and culture. Many hundreds of bookstores are already registered and accept orders from KulturPass holders.

However, on the flip side, while those young people who buy books are intensifying their consumption, the number of book consumers as a whole is continuing to decline, even among this young target group. Peter Kraus vom Cleff says: "A process can be seen in book purchasing that we can also clearly see in the area of reading literacy. The current IGLU study has provided staggering evidence that reading ability continues to deteriorate. Every fourth child who leaves primary school cannot read comprehensively. This is also reflected in media literacy later on: Those who grow up in an educationally strong environment become intensive readers; the others have major reading deficits and thus pick up books less often or not at all – and the gap is widening. We cannot accept this: Reading skills must be promoted more systematically and across the federal states; education and the promotion of reading belong at the top of Germany's priority list! That's why we are working together with the Stiftung Lesen (Foundation for Reading), the Federal Ministry of Education and other partners on a National Reading Plan".

Overview of the 2022 figures 

The industry generated a total turnover of 9.44 billion euros in 2022 (2021: 9.63 billion euros). Physical bookstores, still the largest sales channel for books, regained sales after the losses caused by the month-long store closures during the Corona period in 2022: Compared to 2021, turnover at physical stores increased by 5 per cent to 3.95 billion euros; this gives these stores a share of 41.9 per cent (2021: 39.1 per cent). Compared to the pre-Corona year 2019, however, trade from physical stores is still 7.9 percent behind. In the case of internet book trade, the development is in reverse: after large increases during the pandemic, turnover in online trade, of which about half is accounted for by the online stores of physical bookstores, declined again. Turnover in 2022 fell by 12.6 per cent from 2.61 to 2.28 billion euros. The share of turnover of the internet book trade in the total market was 24.1 per cent in 2022 (2021: 27.1 per cent). However, the digital boost from Corona is still having an effect: Compared to 2019, the year before the outbreak of the pandemic, this sales channel still had 22.8 per cent more turnover in 2022.

The decline in turnover in 2022 is reflected across almost all product groups. There are however three exceptions: Fiction, the largest product group with a 34 per cent share of turnover, recorded a 4.4 per cent increase compared to the previous year. Books from the area of "Education and Study Guides" achieved 2.5 per cent more turnover than in 2021. And travel literature, which suffered the most during the pandemic, increased by 16.5 per cent.

Turnover from ebooks did not grow further in 2022 after a temporary increase during the pandemic and stagnated at minus 0.2 per cent. This means that ebooks accounted for 6 per cent of turnover on the general public market (excluding textbooks and reference books) last year. 3 million people bought ebooks, which is around 400,000 fewer than in 2021. In contrast, audiobooks continue to grow. Turnover from audiobooks increased by 35.2 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic year 2019, and most recently by 6.6 per cent from 2021 to 2022. Digital sales channels are the growth drivers: Downloads generated 61.1 per cent more sales in 2022 compared to 2019, and streaming even 154.9 per cent. Audiobooks on CDs, on the other hand, are being bought less and less: their sales decreased by 53.8 per cent in the pre-pandemic comparison. This means that digital channels now clearly dominate the audiobook business: Downloads were responsible for 49.3 per cent of audiobook sales in 2022, streaming for 37.5 per cent and CDs for 13.3 per cent.

The number of people buying books continued to decline in 2022: around 25.8 million people bought books, which is around 1.4 million fewer than in the previous year. The number of buyers in the young target group, the 16- to 29-year-olds, is also declining - however, the expenditure on books and the purchase intensity are continuously increasing here. In 2022, 16- to 29-year-olds purchased an average of 11.7 books per consumer, which is around 24 per cent more than in 2017. The expenditure of 16- to 29-year-olds increased by around 8 per cent between 2017 and 2022. Where do young people find their book-buying inspiration? Social media is increasingly important as an inspiration source: Among 16- to 19-year-olds, more than every fourth euro spent on books is inspired by social media (around 28 percent of spending). The influence is also still significant among 20- to 29-year-olds. 

The number of first editions by publishers remained largely stable in 2022 after declining due to the uncertain outlook during the pandemic. It increased slightly from 63,992 to 64,278 from 2021 to 2022. The number of translations of first editions increased again after two years of slowing down: in 2022, a total of 9,403 titles from other languages (2021: 8,703) were newly published on the German book market. The share of translated titles in all new publications was 14.6 per cent in 2022 (2021: 13.6 per cent). 

Licence sales buckled significantly in 2022: With 6,655 licences, German publishers sold 14.4 per cent fewer book licences abroad than in 2021, clearly reflecting the economic consequences of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine. In 2021, 676 licence deals were made between German publishers and Russia, compared to 236 in 2022. This means that Russia, previously a major buyer - especially of books for children and young adults - has slipped from second place among licensees to tenth place. As a result of China's zero-Covid strategy, the licensing business with this country was also still subject to major restrictions in 2022. The number of licence deals with China fell from 1,318 in 2021 to 825 in 2022. However, China still remains in first place among the most important licensees, followed by Italy and the Czech Republic.

Mid-year results 2023: After the first six months, the book market in the central sales channels recorded an increase in turnover of 4.1 per cent compared to the same period in 2022. In a multi-year comparison, turnover is lower than in 2019 with only 1 per cent. Sales are clearly declining with minus 7.9 per cent. However, the prices paid by consumers have risen by 9.7 per cent since 2019. The local book trade is even more clearly behind the pre-pandemic level: Turnover in the first six months of 2023 was 5.2 per cent below that of the same period in 2022, sales at 14 per cent.

Sources and further information

The figures on the shares and changes in turnover of the product categories in 2022 as well as the figures on development of sales, price and turnover in 2023 are taken from the Media Control retail panel. The development of audiobooks is based on the audiobook monitor of Media Control in cooperation with the audiobook interest group of the Börsenverein. Figures on consumers (total general public market and young target group as well as ebooks and digital audiobooks) and the data on the market development of ebooks are taken from the GfK Consumer Panel Media*Scope Book. All other figures are based on surveys and calculations by the Börsenverein.

Figures and statistics of the 2022 book market are summarised in the publication "Buch und Buchhandel in Zahlen 2023" (Books and Book Trade in Figures 2023), issued by the Börsenverein and published in August by the technology and information provider MVB.


All the current figures on the German book market can be found at 

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