The latest report from the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, which publishes quarterly reports in cooperation with GfK Entertainment, sends out mixed messages about the state of the German ebook market.
On the one hand, unit sales were up one million to 29.1 million, and purchase intensity (how many ebooks were bought per active consumer) was up 12.6% with an average of 8.3 ebooks bought per reader.
But revenue fell 1.4%, thanks to a fall in the average price paid (down 5.1% on 2016).
That in itself is not necessarily bad thing, of course, except for bigger publishers charging high prices for frontlist titles.
More disturbing is the fact that the number of buying readers fell by 7.7 percent from 3.8 million in 2016 to 3.5 million last year.
These statistics should be tempred by the fact that they are not from publishers or retailers but rather from a survey of 25,000 Germans, supposedly representative of the German resident population over the age of ten, for a total of 67.7 million people.
These statistics may accurately reflect the German market, may be close, or may be wildly off the mark. We simply don’t know, and would be best advised to await some firm industry figures that will at least tell us more about how bigger publishers are doing.
It may well be, if these numbers are correct, that German self-publishers are benefitting from the alleged trend towards cheaper titles. Again, we have no way of knowing and the ebook markets of Europe remain shrouded in mystery.