Initiativen des Börsenvereins und der Stiftung Buchkultur und Leseförderung des Börsenvereins

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The Book Market in Germany 2023/24: Positive results in a tense economic climate

Turnover growth of 2.8 per cent in 2023 and 1.2 per cent in the first half of 2024 / Fiction, books for children and young adults, audio and young buyers as growth drivers / Current market figures can be found at
Erstellt am 04.07.2024

© Nurettin Cicek

The book industry is holding its own in an overall difficult economic climate and has recorded a growth in turnover. At the same time, publishers and book retailers are also feeling the effects of sluggish consumer spending, inflation and persistently high costs. The industry’s turnover rose by 2.8 per cent in 2023 compared to the previous year, with the book market closing the first half of 2024 with a 1.2 per cent turnover increase. Fiction and books for children and young adults accounted for a large share of this growth - these product groups include a large number of sales of young adult and new adult titles, which are in high demand among young readers. 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: “Overall, the book market is doing well despite difficult economic times. Books are still relevant and in demand - as a compass in a complex world, a basis for forming one's own opinion and as a creative pastime. While the older target group used to be considered a safe bet for the book market, young readers are currently boosting the book industry. Inspired by book recommendations on social media such as #BookTok, books are very popular among young people. Bookstores and publishers are adapting their programmes, product range planning and presentation to the needs of these young readers. Many are active on social media themselves and are making use of these channels."

Peter Kraus vom Cleff, Managing Director of the Börsenverein explains: “Despite the overall positive outcome, the general economic situation is still putting book retailers, publishing houses and industry logistics under pressure. The book trade, much like the entire retail trade, is experiencing a weakening consumer climate. Sales are falling overall and the number of consumers is continuing to decrease. Fewer people are coming into the cities to shop and consequently the footfall in stores is lower than in in the past. There is also noticeable caution in the production of new titles, with publishing houses planning their programmes more conservatively due to ongoing crises. 

Young and new-adult boom, but promotion of reading skills and diversity on the book market necessary

According to Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, young readers' enthusiasm for books should not obscure from the fact that there is a massive deficit in reading skills, which is becoming ever greater: "While some young people are reading more, the proportion of those who are not even accessing books because they cannot read comprehensively, is growing. Politicians and civil society urgently need to work together to find strategies to improve the educational situation in Germany. Initiatives such as the KulturPass for 18-year-olds, which the Minister of State for Culture launched last year, have proven to be effective. Books are by far the most popular choice for young adults. Despite the tight budget situation, the KulturPass should definitely be retained in the coming year and the budget should be increased again to 200 euros after being halved to 100 euros this year.”

The association is also concerned about maintaining diversity within the book market. According to Peter Kraus vom Cleff: "Not all publishers and bookstores are benefiting equally from the young adult and new adult boom. Small, independent publishers in particular, with their programmes outside the mainstream, are struggling economically. They urgently need structural support, as already envisaged in the coalition agreement. We are also seeing a further increase in bureaucracy due to regulations and other legislative interventions, which also poses major challenges for all companies across our industry. How can bookstores and publishers continue to fulfil their important role for culture and society if they are hindered by obligations to provide verification and reporting, e.g. on supply chains, product safety and packaging channels? Furthermore, books need a public presence in the media to avoid being drowned out by the huge media competition. The continuous disappearance of literary broadcasts, especially in public broadcasting, jeopardises the visibility of the diversity of the book landscape. Our urgent appeal to those responsible for broadcasting: Don’t allow literature to fall by the wayside in the upcoming reforms!”

Overview of the 2023 figures 

The industry generated a total turnover of 9.71 billion euros (2022: 9.44 billion euros). Both physical bookstores, which remain the largest sales channel for books, and online book trade increased compared to the previous year. Compared to 2022, revenue from physical stores rose by 2.6 per cent to 4.05 billion euros, giving the retail book trade (excluding e-commerce) a 41.8 per cent share of total industry turnover. The online book trade, around half of which is attributable to the online stores of physical bookstores, rose again by 5.5 per cent to 2.40 billion euros in 2023 after a decline in 2022. The online book trade accounted for 24.8 per cent of turnover in the overall market in 2023. In a five-year comparison, online trade is clearly benefiting from the boost gained by the pandemic: compared to 2019, online sales were 29.5 per cent higher last year, while sales in the retail book trade were 5.5 per cent lower in the same period.

Four product groups are responsible for the overall positive turnover result: first and foremost, fiction, the largest product group, which accounts for 35.5 per cent of turnover. In 2023, this product group recorded an increase in turnover of 7.7 per cent compared to the previous year. Turnover for books for children and young adults increased by 2.5 per cent, the school and learning segment by 5.0 per cent and non-fiction by 2.7 per cent. In particular, over the last five years, fiction (+17.0 per cent) and books for children and young adults (+8.6 per cent) have seen increased turnover. These product groups also include young adult and new adult titles, which are in high demand among the young target group. Fiction is also the only product group in which sales have increased, by 1.1 per cent compared to 2022 and 2.9 per cent compared to 2019. 

Trade for ebooks has levelled off at a stable but rather low level since the temporary increase during the pandemic. At 3 million, the number of buyers of digital books on the consumer market (excluding school and reference books) is at the same level as in 2022, while the turnover remains almost unchanged at 6.1 per cent (2022: 6.0 per cent). After a slight decline in the previous year, turnover picked up again in 2023 (+5.2 per cent). Greater momentum can be seen in the audiobook market. Here, turnover grew by 39.4 per cent compared to 2019, most recently by 3.1 per cent from 2022 to 2023. Digital business is the key growth driver: 3.4 million people bought digital audiobooks in 2023, compared to 1.8 million in 2019. Only 9.8 per cent of audio sales are still generated with audiobooks on CD, with downloads accounting for 48.8 per cent and streaming for 41.4 per cent. The latter has seen the strongest increase in turnover since 2019, namely by 190.6 per cent. Downloads have increased by 64.6 per cent in the same period, while audiobook CDs have lost 64.9 per cent.

The number of people buying books continued to decline in 2023, albeit less than in the previous two years: around 25.0 million people purchased books, which is 2.8 per cent less than in the previous year (2022: -5.2 per cent, 2021: -3.9 per cent). However, there is a positive trend among the young target group. The number of buyers among 10 to 15-year-olds is increasing: by 3.9 per cent from 2022 to 2023, by 2.6 per cent from 2021 to 2022 and by 13.1 per cent from 2020 to 2021. If we look at spending by and for the young target group up to the age of 19 (self-purchases and books bought for them as gifts), we see even more significant increases: spending by and for readers up to the age of 19 has risen by 32 per cent within five years, by 65 per cent among 13 to 15-year-olds and by 77 per cent among 16 to 19-year-olds. Around a third of young readers become aware of new books via social media channels. There are signs of a change in reading socialisation: while the ritual of being read to by parents or grandparents helped 77 per cent of today's 20 to 29-year-old readers to get them excited about reading, the figure is only 67 per cent for today's 10 to 15-year-old readers. At the same time, the importance of reading at school for book enthusiasm is increasing. Among today's 10 to 15-year-olds, school is a trigger for 70 per cent, while this was only the case for 60 per cent of today's 20 to 29-year-olds.

The number of first editions by publishers is continuing to decline, having already fallen significantly in 2021 due to the uncertainty caused by the crisis and then stabilising at this lower level in 2022. It has now fallen from 64,278 (2022) to 60,230 (2023). Similarly, the number of translations also reduced, from 9,403 titles to 8,760 titles. At 14.5 per cent, the share of translated titles in all new publications remained roughly at the previous year's level (2022: 14.6 per cent).

Licence sales suffered a significant decline in 2022 (-14.4 per cent). In 2023, the number of book rights sold abroad by German publishers continued to fall slightly by 1.9 per cent to 6,527 contracts. The global political situation continues to be reflected in this development. Russia, to which 608 licences were sold in 2019, only had 368 in 2023. China is still the largest buyer of German book rights, but the number of licences sold has fallen from 1,363 to 754 in the past five years. Licence sales to Ukraine, on the other hand, have seen a significant increase: from 91 in 2022 to 317 in 2023. The focus here is on books for children and young adults with 256 licences.

Half-year results 2024: After the first six months, the book market across the central sales channels has posted a 1.2 per cent increase in turnover compared to the same period in 2023. Sales are down 1.6 per cent, while the prices paid by buyers has risen by 2.8 per cent. The growth in fiction and books for children and young adults is continuing in the current year: fiction titles achieved 4.2 per cent more sales in the first half of 2024 while books for children and young adults posted 4.8 per cent more than in the same period of the previous year.

Sources and further information

The figures on the shares and changes in turnover of the product categories in 2023 as well as the figures on development of sales, price and turnover in 2024 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 MediaScope Book. All other figures are based on surveys and calculations by the Börsenverein.

Figures and statistics of the 2023 book market are summarised in the publication "Buch und Buchhandel in Zahlen 2024" (Books and Book Trade in Figures 2024), 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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