The printed book has been predicted to decline for years. What about the classic book form? Is the reading behavior of people increasing or decreasing? Do e-books crowd out printed editions? In order to discuss and answer these and even more questions, editor Christine Schwab met with Thomas Michael, who has been working as a librarian for many years, currently in the large district town of Wiesloch.
READING AS SOCIAL ACTION
Reading is a form of social action that has different functions and meanings in the different phases of life. Parents play a crucial role in reading socialization, as the children adopt the behavior they show. At this age, the book also plays a special, if not pioneering, role. “Small and primary school children are by far the largest group who come to a library alone or with their parents to borrow children’s books. They are the future clientele that we should absolutely bind.”
The situation is similar in terms of buying behavior, with the figures for books purchased in kindergarten and preschool, although there has been a small decline. But at this age, parents still like to read stories, motivating their offspring to read themselves later.
CHANGE IN READING BEHAVIOR
“Clearly, reading behavior has changed dramatically, in times of social media and the Internet. Today, classical legal advisers or other counsellors are virtually no longer found in a library. People use the Internet, where they can read all the bills. Travel guides, on the other hand, are in high demand all year round. In the meantime, publishers have also adapted to the new reading behavior and produce almost every issue in print format, but also as an e-book. The supply at my location has doubled in the last three years, in 2015 ‘only’ 10,000 e-books were borrowed, in 2018 there were already 20,000,” says Thomas Michael. “And this offer can be increased even further if the reader is a member of a network library between several major cities, such as the METROPOLITAN BIB in the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region. This ‘onleihe’ includes 34 libraries with more than 50,000 titles on offer,” he added.
POPULAR CHRISTMAS GIFT
According to 2017 statistics, books were the most popular gift under the Christmas tree, at 35%. This number has increased in the past year, because according to the outgoing head of the German Stock Exchange Association Heinrich Riethmüller, the number of book purchases has increased by 300,000 and he sees “the downward spiral stopped” and the industry is slowly moving up again.
The estimated turnover of all booksellers in Germany (excluding school and textbooks, but with e-book and audiobook) amounted to a whopping 9.13 billion euros, while sales of books in Baden-Württemberg amounted to 506 million euros in 2017. The turnover of baden-Württemberg publishers is estimated at 1.65 billion euros.
E-BOOK VERSUS PRINTED?
In order to take up the initial question again, as to the future of the book, it remains to be noted that certain contents are not fetched through the book, but via the virtual offer. However, the book as “hardware” will still be used by students to prepare and write down papers, homework or scientific work. “We all have to be prepared for the fact that the current fast-paced ness will also change the reading behavior. Imagine that they can access e-books anywhere in the world, download it, and immediately you can immerse yourself in there book.”
STRENGTHENING BOOK RETAILING
Finally, it should be noted that the printed book will continue to retain its raison d’etre, even if the competition from the e-book and audiobook must not go unmentioned. Technical developments cannot be stopped, but if the readership succeeds in getting their books from local bookshops – buying directly from the store or, for example, through the online marketplace – the break-up of shops, coupled with the loss of many jobs, can be counteracted.