Sunday, April 29, 2012

"A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us." ― Franz Kafka

A Göttingen Bookstore (from: Ellen Jovin: Writer)

"Dominique Pleimling, a researcher at the Institute of Book Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, echoes Harth’s [Jürgen Harth of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association] sentiment. 'Germans have an emotional connection to books,' he says, noting that the printing press was invented in Germany and publishers to this day take great pride in producing top-quality books there. 'If you look at American hardcovers and German hardcovers, or even paperbacks, you see clear differences in how they’re made—American books often use woody paper that’s not especially pleasant. German books have a certain elegance, and beauty.' Threats to quality have never been welcome, Pleimling adds, pointing out that Germans took nearly a decade to warm to paperbacks when they were introduced in the 1950s.
     [...] Beyond German bibliophilia, e-book sales also suffer from economic barriers. According to Pleimling, the German market is set up to protect the book, but not necessarily the e-book. While U.S. book prices are determined by booksellers, German book prices are set by publishers. The country’s fixed-price system, intended in part to protect small booksellers, means that books cost the same no matter where you buy them. German publishers also set e-book prices and tend to not to discount them too much, so as not to undercut print sales. E-books, according to Pleimling, can cost as much as €19 ($25)."
— Caroline Winter, Bloomberg Businessweek

"[...] If you want proof that a cultural divide separates Europe and America, the book business is a place to start. In the United States chain stores have largely run neighborhood bookshops out of business. Here in Germany, there are big and small bookstores seemingly on every block. The German Book Association counts 4,208 bookstores among its members. It estimates that there are 14,000 German publishers. Last year 94,716 new titles were published in German. In the United States, with a population nearly four times bigger, there were 172,000 titles published in 2005.
     Germany’s book culture is sustained by an age-old practice requiring all bookstores, including German online booksellers, to sell books at fixed prices. Save for old, used or damaged books, discounting in Germany is illegal. All books must cost the same whether they’re sold over the Internet or at Steinmetz, a shop in Offenbach that opened its doors in Goethe’s day, or at a Hugendubel or a Thalia, the two big chains.
     What results has helped small, quality publishers like Berenberg. But it has also — American consumers should take note — caused book prices to drop. Last year, on average, book prices fell 0.5 percent."
― Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times

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