GAccording to Alexander Skipis, things weren’t that bad for the small bookstores in the past Corona year. There are no figures on how many bookstores had to close: “If anything, that is a very small proportion,” said the managing director of the German Book Trade Association. People literally stormed the bookstores as soon as they were allowed to reopen. Even on the Internet, book lovers did not order from the popular online mail order company.
The booksellers’ online shops accounted for around 27 percent of sales growth in the online market in the pandemic year, while Amazon only achieved around seven percent. “The combination of a physical bookstore and online trading is obviously what draws people in,” Skipis said. As expected, the online business in particular has given the industry a helping hand, growing by around 21 percent in the pandemic year. This helped the book market to achieve stable total sales: Revenues rose marginally by 0.1 percent and totaled 9.3 billion euros. Skipis calls the fact that the market was still able to make up the sales losses of spring 2020 as a “small sensation”.
Sales over the counter nevertheless suffered: Overall, booksellers’ revenues fell by nine percent. “That is very bitter,” said Skipis. However, this “dark side” of the market development is exclusively due to the pandemic. The retail book trade continues to have the largest market share at 42 percent; thanks to the strong growth, the Internet book trade now accounts for around 24 percent.
Difficult race to catch up
Nevertheless, the pandemic year did not manage to get more people interested in books: The number of buyers fell by 1.5 percent. With the exception of 2018, a negative trend has continued since 2012. Of those who read books, around 25 percent said they had read it more frequently during the pandemic, and more than 30 percent of those younger than 29 years said so. “That makes us very optimistic about the future,” said Skipis.
According to Skipis, the “catch-up” trend in sales will be much more difficult this year; the lockdown in 2021 lasted almost twice as long. By the end of June, sales fell by 3.7 percent compared to the pre-Corona half of 2019, and in the retail book trade it is even 22.9 percent. It is difficult to say how the coming months will go. However, through positive developments such as the commitment of booksellers and government support, Skipis sees “a great opportunity to come out of the pandemic stronger”.