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What the Germans read

What is the situation on the German book market? What books are people buying and what role is the coronavirus playing? We have the answers for you.

Many Germans love to read – from a very young age.
Many Germans love to read – from a very young age. © picture alliance / ZB

How often do people read in Germany?

'Leseratte' ('bookworm') is a word the Germans use to describe people who big readers. Their numbers have been falling slightly for years, but in 2020 over 21 million people in Germany still turn to books every day or several times a week. However, about 30 million read books less than once a month or never.

Digital or print?

People who love reading prefer to pick up a printed book. But in 2019 about 3.6 million people also bought ebooks, although this only accounted for 5 percent of total sales. However, the coronavirus pandemic led to a meteoric increase in 2020: ebook sales rose by 43.5 percent during the weeks when the bookshops were closed. Germany's 18 million audio book fans also count among the readers.

Where do they get their books from?

Most books are bought in bookshops: in 2019 it was around 46 percent, slightly more than in 2018. Although mail-order bookselling via the internet is growing steadily, it only made up 21.3 percent of sales in 2019. Turnover with books has been rising in small steps for years, reaching 9.3 billion euros in 2019.

Which bestsellers do the Germans read?

Above all they like to read exciting books: crime novels and thrillers traditionally top the fiction bestseller lists. But historical novels too are always very popular with the public. Just as many titles come from Germany as from other countries. A total of almost 10,000 books from abroad are translated every year.

Book categories as a percentage of turnover:

  1. Fiction                                                      31.9
  2. Books for children and young people    17.6
  3. Self-help books                                       14.0
  4. Non-fiction                                               11.0
  5. School and learning                                10.7

Literature in Germany and abroad
Here you can find (in German) the current order lists for fiction, non-fiction, children's books and audio books.

You can find all the information you need about the book market here: German Booksellers and Publishers Association.

This is the right place when it comes to reading in all its aspects: German Reading Foundation (Stiftung Lesen).


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