A digital transformation in fast forward! How Covid-19 and resulting shifts in book consumption re-shaped book audiences in Brazil and in Germany in surprisingly similar ways.
November 11, 2020 by ruediger

When around 60% of Brazilians found themselves trapped in isolation for well over a month in March and April of 2020, the result was a significant and lasting raise in digital book consumption, which was especially strong for specific genre categories like fiction, nonfiction (which included educational) as well as children and young adult reading. Other traditionally more relevant genres for ebooks, such as romance or fantasy, had a more modest increase. And most importantly, the raise in digital reading continued once the restrictions had ended.

We witness an astoundingly similar set of transformations in reading habits in both Brazil and Germany, two otherwise deeply different environments for cultural practices, after conducting two studies together with the Brazilian and German teams of digital distributor and aggregator Bookwire. Surprisingly, the clearly different economic and educational differences between the two countries seem less pervasive than the impact of the crisis as an accelerator in an already ongoing digital transformation. (Find free download links at the end of this article)

Marcelo Gioia, Managing Director Brazil, also sees this boost, which has developed into a constantly growing demand, as confirmed by the past few months: “Within a very short time, publishers reacted in March 2020, when the pandemic reached Brazil, with discount campaigns or free products in order to quickly bring variety into the home of the reader with e-books in a lockdown. And it was worth it, because since then volume of sold units in these areas has grown immensely, we are seeing unprecedented growth. What would otherwise have taken two years, this year took just two months“.

Large growth potential for e-books – especially for non-fiction & children’s books

154 % increase in revenues for non-fiction and even 227 % increase for children’s and youth literature, especially during the lockdown period, brought both genres a new level of sold units and turnover from that point on. Supported by strategically planned marketing and/or influencer campaigns, publishers took advantage of the high demand to draw attention to their expertise and catalogue on a permanent basis.

The figures for the fictional categories of romance, crime, thriller or sci-fi, on the other hand, showed the same developments as before the pandemic.

New readers won – and kept

The most lasting effect of the growth during the strict isolation in March and April could be observed in the evaluation of the data until August – because although the growth figures naturally decreased due to further recreational activities that could be offered again, revenues continue to rise – as does the number of readers of digital publications.

For the publishing houses, this means that, in addition to higher volume of sold units, they also achieve significantly higher revenues. Here, too, it is above all the revenues of non-fiction books that have grown the most.

The practical learnings from the analysis will allow publishers, distributors and authors to re-orient their marketing and their distribution strategies, and narrow cast promotion for specific digital titles to specific consumer audiences.

The Covid-19 special report on Brazil builds on the “Digital Consumer Book Barometer” series developed by Wischenbart’s Content and Consulting team in a broad collaborative effort with leading international digital aggregators, notably Bookwire, with whom already in summer, a “Covid-Special” Germany, Austria and Switzerland had been released. Both reports build on real aggregated sales data provided by Bookwire for both Brazil and for the German language markets.

Download the Digital Barometer Covid19 German language markets here, and Brazil here.

All the previous reports in the Digital Consumer Book Barometers series can be downloaded for free from the websites of Bookwire and from www.global-ebook.com, a platform dedicated to data driven analysis of international ebook and digital audiobook markets.

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