The e-book market in Europe

New devices, increased device ownership and the increased supply of information are all contributing to the growth of e-books.

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E-books impacting on publishers, libraries and consumers

At the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair this week publishers gathered for a conference about the current market for, and the future growth of, e-books.  Speakers discussed the current state of play around the world, including e-book and app sales.  They also discussed licensing, finding new markets and e-book retailing.  Coinciding with the Frankfurt Book Fair, O'Reilly Media has published The Global e-book market: current conditions and future projections.  The report presents a broad survey of the existing data on e-book publishing in Europe and two BRIC countries (Brazil and China).  

Trends in e-book publishing will also be addressed at Internet Librarian International.  Kate Worlock of industry analyst firm Outsell will discuss the drivers of e-book growth and the impact of ebooks on libraries and information services and other speakers will present case studies from the front line of e-resource delivery.

Drivers for growth

The ever increasing supply of content, the release of new e-readers onto the market and the subsequent explosion in device ownership are all driving the e-book revolution.  But public libraries are also playing a part.  In France, for example over 52% of all e-book downloads are made from public libraries (O'Reilly 2011).

e-books in Europe

Print book prices are regulated in many European countries, with reduced rates of VAT.  These regulations do not automatically apply to e-books.  In 2011, France extended fixed book prices to e-books and the German professional association for booksellers and publishers (Borsenverein) is lobbying for a similar move.   The European Commission considers print books a product, but e-books, for which a consumer requires a license, are subject to a different rate of VAT. 

In the UK the current market share of ebooks is approximately 6% - and is growing rapidly.  The UK has so far experienced a comparatively high penetration of e-reading devices, with Kindle at 14% and the Apple iPhone at 12%.  Amazon launched its UK Kindle store in August 2010 and 400,000 devices were sold in the first five months.  45% of readers are reading e-books on their desktop or laptop computer.  

Outside of the US and UK, e-book penetration in most countries covered in the O'Reilly report are currently estimated at about 1% of the overall book market.  Different cultural circumstances influence the world of publishing in individual European markets and there are different drivers and players in many countries.  2011 has seen Amazon, Sony, Apple and Kobo begin to introduce localised versions of online services into Europe, with Google predicted to follow soon.  Projections suggest that there will be a double digit market share for e-books in most European countries by 2015.


In Germany approximately 40% of all new titles are released as both e-books and in print format.  However, it is the larger publishing houses in Germany who are more advanced in e-book publishing.  The Sony eReader is the most popular reading device with an estimated 35% share of the market, with Kindle in second place.  Amazon launched its German website in 2011 and is now offering over 1 million titles, with approximately 40,000 in German.  Apple is also working to localise its offerings in Germany.  A 15% market share for e-books by 2015 is predicted.

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