The challenges – and golden opportunities for publishers in a global perspective. Essay in “Die Welt”

In emerging economies, and despite manyfold challenges, many 100 millions of people have become ‘middle class’ in the past one or two decades, looking for both entertainement (including reading!) and education (for themselves and their children).

In the international publishing business, huge international publishing corporations have emerged in that same time span. Think Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins. And yet, they could only marginally reach out to those new possible audiences.

Much bigger competitors – from Amazon to Facebook, from Apple to Asian groups like Rakuten or Tencent – are in a so much stronger position to take over those opportunities.

And what are the chances for local players, even big ones, in countries like Brazil or Russia, the Arab World, or Indonesia?

I wrote an essay on those questions, timed for today’s opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, published (in german) in Die Welt.

To learn more about those international dimensions of the book business, join us at the Frankfur Book Fair for the CEO Talks tomorrow, Wednesday 14, 14.00 to 15.00 with Arnaud Nourry, Chairman and VCEO of Hachette, and with two leading independent publishers, Andrew Franklin of Profile Books (UK) and Marcos Pereira of Editora Sextante (Brazoil), Thursday, Oct 15, same time, in hall 4.2

Preparing for Frankfurt? Refresh your data & insights with our reports!

To get the best out of your conversations at the book fair, check out the latest industry statistics and analysis from our research.



Find our 2 free Frankfurt white papers, on international market developments, and how multiple content media impact publishing:

  • The Business of Books 2015:
    Key data on markets and developments in Europe, UK and US, Brazil, China, Russia, Indonesia, and what this teaches us on the new complexities in publishing. Frankfurt white paper 01, free download here.
  • Beyond Books:
    Mobile, smartphones, competition from other content media, collaborative creation, and what you must know about these trends for your business. Frankfurt white paper 02, free download here.
  • Why most ebook predictions got it so wrong:
    A podcast with the Copyright Clearance Center here.
  • The big picture:
    The Global eBook report 2015 (in case you haven’t your copy already).

See you in Frankfurt!

2015 Frankfurt CEO Talk on Thursday is featuring two independent publishers Andrew Franklin of Profile Books (UK) and Marcos Pereira of Editora Sextante (Brazil)

A debate on strategic developments in publishing – including notably consolidation, digital integration, and globalization as well as the specific challenges and opportunities for independent publishing houses in that challenging context -, will be presented by Livres Hebdo (France), with Bookdao (China), The Bookseller (United Kingdom), buchreport (Germany), PublishNews Brazil (Brazil), Publishers Weekly (USA), and the Frankfurt Book Fair Business Club, featuring the Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry 2015. The talk will be moderated by Rüdiger Wischenbart.

Thursday October 15, 2015, from 14:00 to 15:00

Frankfurt Book Fair, Hall 4.2, Room Dimension, Frankfurt Book Fair Business Club.

Register here.

While the largest international media and publishing giants often grab the industry’s headlines, many of the successful new voices are discovered and brought to readers by independents. Across all the diversity of markets and cultures, independent publishers have shown a knack for identifying new talent, developing rich and unique catalogues, and enriching the book industry by their original endeavors.

At the Thursday Frankfurt CEO Talks 2015, two outstanding independent publishers from two hugely different markets and backgrounds – Andrew Franklin, founder and Managing Director of Profile Books (UK), and Marcos Pereira, founder and CEO of Editora Sextante (Brazil) – will discuss their experiences.

Andrew Franklin launched Profile Books “on April Fool’s Day in 1996” to “publish stimulating non-fiction in a wide range of fields, including history, business and economics, science and biography, with a sprinkling of humour.” The house’s long list of bestsellers includes Alan Bennett, Simon Garfield’s Just My Type and, of course, Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves. In 2015, a Tuskar Rock book, Seiobo There Below by László Krasznahorkai, won the Man Booker International Prize. Profile Books is based in London, and publishes around 120 books a year, and has 40 employees. (More at

Marcos Pereira is the founder and CEO of Editora Sextante, a Rio de Janeiro-based publishing house, situated at one of Brazil’s most sought-after addresses. The company initially specialized in self-help, and more commercial titles at low prices, while always keeping the production standards at a high level. But with the Brazilian translation of The Da Vinci Code, Sextante moved into fiction. Sextante also holds a 50% stake in Editora Intrínseca, a notorious publisher for global as well as domestic bestsellers. Pereira’s personal credo is to operate a publishing house “that believes in the access to reading.”

Frankfurt CEO Talk with Arnaud Nourry &  Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry 2015

Join us for a debate on global publishing trends with the CEO of Hachette, Arnaud Nourry.

Get your copy of the full Global Ranking 2015 now.

Since 2007, the Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry is the standard reference for the international development of the book business. Find the full report, with key data, analysis and detailed company profiles of all 56 listed publishing groups here.
On the backdrop of the Ranking’s findings, the CEO Talks at the Frankfurt Book Fair provide first hands insights from major industry leaders.

Wednesday, 14 Oct 2015, 2.00 to 3.00 pm, Hall 4.2 Room Dimension. Register here.
An initiative by Livres Hebdo (France), co-published by BookDao (China), buchreport (Germany), The Bookseller (UK), Publishers’ Weekly (US) and PublishNews (Brazil), in partnership with the Frankfurt Book Fair, researched and presented by Ruediger Wischenbart Content and Consulting.

Not one prediction about ebooks has been correct so far. Why? A summer rant.

Let’s face the simple truth: Not one prediction about ebooks (as far as I know) has been correct so far:

No, ebooks will NOT go away any time soon. But no, again, they will not replace printed books, not even mass paperbacks, within a decade or so.

Thus far, ebooks have strongly impacted only on some markets: English language (US, UK), and genre fiction (big fiction bestsellers, fantasy, romance, young adult) – and ebooks helped propel self-publishing.

Interestingly, in the various – and very diverse – Non-English markets of Europe, ebooks have stalled early on, in a very different pattern from US or UK. But strangely, they behaved remarkably similar for those niches of genre fiction and blockbuster novels (and found plenty of people downloading those in English, and not, say, in Slovenian or Dutch translations).

Publishers, particularly in Europe, have had their hand in all this, by keeping prices high, and by believing in the gospel of iron cast copyright protection technology (DRM).

Now several of the big companies start learning lesson 01: They abandon hard DRM, and replace it by water marking – to get “rid of a road block” (phrases buchreport, reporting on Holtzbrinck giving up hard DRM for Germany, following suit after Bonnier had decided likewise in June, and a growing number of others before that). In Italy or Scandinavia, hard DRM has had no strong showing from the beginning almost.

My personal list of ebook headaches

Every time I purchase a (non Kindle/Amazon) ebook (because I dislike those walled gardens), I firmly struggle, and hate, the lack of usability on ANY of the major ebook platforms I tend to use. Here are some real life examples:

  • Kobo has (for me) a terrible search engine, as it makes some kind of a difference for me with an Austrian account (as opposed, it seems, to what they have for a German user – argh!!!). Behind that riddle seems to sit a mix of territorial rights and bad meta data – which doesn’t help me a lot, I must say;
  • has a search engine and shop environment which together seem to visualize every step of development and changing partnerships that the platform has had to serve in the past several years – and even getting a title into a bookmark list, instead of the buy basket takes a little adventure in figuring out how, and why, a function changes names along the process;
  • Direct purchases at notably British publishers’ websites often confront the mysterious red lines of territorial rights;
  • Buying a French book teaches you a thorough lesson about how France wants to be different – it works in the end, but you better bring some time, and all your wits and persistence.

I assume you do NOT want me to go on and on and on.

Perhaps I am not the only one who got frustrated. Many a reader may have had enough – and a number has moved over to more easy-to-use piracy offerings. Not necessarily because they want “to steal the book“. But because … well, I do not want to entering guessing either.

Here is my main concern: We simply do not know.

We learn about a drop in ebook sales of 2.5% in the US (AAP StatShot, quoted in Publishers Weekly). But what does this mean? Again a few exemplary thoughts:

We know how unevenly ebook sales are across genres, but also publishers. From Europe, I know that ebooks seem to privilege massively the biggest houses, plus a few more publishers who really drive digital.

In Germany, a few independent houses (Luebbe, Aufbau) report that their ebook revenue share is over 15%. Even in ebook agnostic France, a few romance and erotica specialists claim strong digital sales, and we know that a few blockbuster memoirs found their way well onto readers’ screens, albeit through illegal downloads.

For Germany, or France, we still do not have any meaningful break out numbers, by genre, or monthly developments, but only broad overall figures for, supposedly, all of “trade” or consumer publishing, which are basically meaningless. We do not even know, for the industry, the part that year end holiday sales play, for digital sales. And the same applies to any other EU market aside from the UK.

Which also means that we have no idea whatsoever of the real impact of piracy on (p&e) book sales. We simply don’t know. (Just as a thought experiment: Are illegal sales curbing down mostly niche titles, available on highly proficient illegal platforms, and are particularly harmful to diversity of titles published by those specialist copyright holders? Or  are the mostly a nuisance to blockbuster fiction and their ‘Big Houses‘ publishers? Or is the leakage paramount? We don’t know.)

What I could see in fact, through our research, is a pretty staggering increase in page visits at major piracy sites across European markets, and both their usability as well as the mounting emphasis from these sites (they pretend, seriously, to foster ‘reading culture’) which are obviously well echoed by readers. Not by nerds or hackers, but by the most serious, ambitious page devouring folks!)

We have documented some of this in the Global eBook report 2015, and plan for some updates, notably on pricing and on piracy, for autumn 2015.

But here are already a few anticipating thoughts:

Ebooks are NOT a marginal bug in the book publishing system, as a market share (in Europe) of overall 2, 3 or 4% of all consumer sales might indicate. Ebooks interfere with the entire system, as they impact on a number of very sensitive points, by exercising significant leverage.

Most prominently, they work most directly with all kinds of particularly dedicated consumers who specialize heavily on one niche, who read much more than average, etc.

Second, ebooks set a precedent for many more readers, by bringing the ‘book‘ (that previously ‘special‘ thing) on par with all other media content, which literally trains readers at comparing their pricing as well as the convenience of access, and – very important for the cultural classes – their ‘symbolic status‘, with other formats, other content and media, on which they spend time and money.

Third, when the new ‘user experience‘ with books compares poorly with other stuff, the next exit might be a piracy site.

I made an effort of not mentioning the Amazon factor so far in that lengthy story. But here it enters the stage, unavoidably. The ‘A-impact‘ is perhaps not primarily what Amazon is blamed for, its tax-optimizing habits, or its tough negotiations with publishers over margins. Amazon’s main threat comes probably from their offer of being “the other – who claims to re-invent the future of books and reading, and of all other digital media content anyway. Which is also arguably Amazon’s softest spot: Imagine from how many sides and angles new challengers can – and will! – come in. Amazon’s future is all but secured.

For the old world publishers, who today struggle with the first wave of change, this comes with little relief. But it sure carries a simple lesson:

Ebooks are complicated. They look small, even marginal in many places. But we see how a huge, old dyke at once gets many little leaks, and readers’ attention held back for long by that dyke, is curiously exploring all the other leads around.

Publishers, if they want to survive, and fix their dyke, will better learn the tricks of ebooks quickly. Not for today’s minimal revenue share, or flattening growth curve. But to remain their readers’ best choice tomorrow, again.

Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry 2015 is out. China’s forceful entrance highlighted.

This survey of the 57 largest (book) publishing corporations worldwide, with a combined revenues from publishing of 53,328 m€, tracks the evolution of the global business of books in its transformation between digitalization, globalization and consolidation.

The study, which has been updated annually since 2007, encompasses scientific and professional, educational and consumer publishing.

An initiative by Livres Hebdo, this annual snapshot of the global book business has been updated every year since 2007, and is co-published by Bookdao, China, The Bookseller, UK, buchreport, Germany, Publishers Weekly, USA, and PublishNews Brazil. It has been researched by Rüdiger Wischenbart Content and Consulting.

A summary of findings 2015 can be downloaded here.


Global eBook report partnering with Electric Book Fair Berlin with special discount!

We proudly announce our partnership with Electric Book Fair in Berlin on June 20, 2015, a new initiative of the digital publisher mikrotext by authors Andrea Nienhaus and Nikola Richter.


The new generation of digital entrepreneurs and activists are preparing for an “Electric Afternoon“, at Colonia Nova, Berlin-Neukölln.

We celebrate the event with the best that we can offer: Good & fresh information on ebooks.

For a short time, the Global eBook report will be available for the puzzling amount of only €10 (instead of usually €15) at

Have fun, be electric & eclectic.

Join the Electric Book Fair and read the Global eBook report 2015!

Kicking off China at BookExpo in New York with a 500 strong delegation for a 3 day program of debates and encounters

It all started with hosting a ping pong tournament and players in the early 1970s, recalled Steve Orlins, who in fact had been personally involved in the early negotiations to resume diplomatic relations between the US and China some four decades ago. Today, Orlins is president of the National Committee of United States China Relations, with Henry Kissinger still its vice-president, sending a welcome note to the BookExpo America Global Market Forum China, which we kicked off today in New York.

Big media attention at today's launch of China Global Market Forum at BEA in New York

Big media attention at today’s launch of China Global Market Forum at BEA in New York

China has sent a delegation 500 strong delegation, including over 100 publishers, for meeting their US peers, and engage in professional conversations on how to further develop exchanges between the book professionals of the two largest book markets worldwide.


Together, the US and China book markets account for some 40 percent of the worldwide trade in books and publications, as Jonathan Nowell of Nielsen BookScan reminded the audience in the first of five “Forums” exploring the state of the industry in the two countries, quoting statistics that we had researched a year ago.


Nowell was joined by an illustrious round of speakers including Wu Shangzhi, the Chinese Vice-Minister for publishing (GAPP), Wu Xiaoping and Li Yan, respectively president and vice-president of two of the largest Chinese publishing groups, Phoenix and China Publishing Group, Tom Allen, president of the American Association of Publishers, Richard Charkin, president of the International Publishers Association and CEO of UK publisher Bloomesbury, Russel Grandinetti, SVP of Amazon Kindle, Clay Stobaugh, EVP of Wiley (which operates in China since 1979!), Jo Lusby, MD North Asia for Penguin Random House, who had set up shop for Penguin exactly 10 years ago, Rick Joyce, CMO at Perseus, as well as my co-moderator George Slowik, president of Publishers Weekly.

These two panel debates were setting the tone for further discussions, on digital publishing, literary translation, educational publishing and reading promotion in the next few days which I had been preparing together for BEA, with tremendous support from teams in Beijing and at BEA in the US.

The spacious Chinese stand, displaying some 10,000 books, moments before being opened to the general audience of BEA

The spacious Chinese stand, displaying some 10,000 books, moments before being opened to the general audience of BEA


In fact, together with BEA’s director Steve Rosato, and his predecessor Lance Fensterman, we had started to work on this project a number of years ago.


Today, all these pieces got together into a great event, and, to be honest, with a deep breath of relief. It cannot be an easy feat to set the stage for such a complex conversation, and I am sure, the various debates will follow suit on that beginning in the weeks and months ahead, with discussions on business as well as debates between different cultures and agendas. I am certain that this was a fruitful start.


Popular SciFi author  Liu Cixin, whose novel "The Three  tBody Problem" has been widely acclaimed both in China and the US, tonight at a debate with New York fans.

Popular SciFi author Liu Cixin, whose novel “The Three tBody Problem” has been widely acclaimed both in China and the US, tonight at a debate with New York fans.




The Global eBook report 2015 is available: Your guide and reference to international ebook developments.

The Global eBook report – your reference and guide on the evolution of ebook markets internationally:



Providing compact data and analysis, with comparative charts and tables for over 25 leading publishing markets (US, UK, Europe, Brazil, China, India, Russia), summarizing recent developments and debates, including on global players (Amazon, Apple et al.), ebook pricing strategies, piracy, and key trends (e.g. an overview on new book flat-rate services, DRM policies, or self-publishing). Available in PDF, ePub and Kindle formats.


For details and direct purchase at only €15, go to .


Selected findings, with data and insights, will be discussed here over the weeks to come. For alerts, follow us on Twitter @wischenbart.

Publishers’ Forum 2015: Find videos on key notes and debates and download presentations

The Publishers’ Forum in Berlin in April 2015 has brought together over 260 book professionals from Germany, the United Kingdom, the US, Sweden, Poland, Italy  and a few more places, to debating “How to reconstruct publishing“.



It was a lively two days, with topics ranging from finance – “Strategy & Money” –  to cross media – “Publishing goes Pop” as illustrated in the picture featuring, from left to right, Michael Bhaskar (Canelo) , Lance Fensertman (ReedPop), Nathan Hull (Mofibo) and Andy Gall (Red Bull Media House).


A fair number of the sessions are available on video online, as are many of the presentations.


Media saw “a bold setup” in the conference  (The Bookseller) as well as clear signals of optimism (“Am Ende der Angststarre”, in buchreport).


But as of now, preparations have already began for Publishers’ Forum 2016, which will be held on April 28 & 29. Save the date, and stay tuned at and on twitter at @PublishersForum !

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