Tuesday, 2 April 2013

German Chainstores and Indies and Dialogue

Nothing is happening in the world of German books. It's freezing cold here and everyone's brains have died over Easter. So I've dredged the German-speaking internet for something to recycle. Here's the vaguely amusing thing I've found:

An MDR exposé on bookstore chains that "recommend" books of the month. Complete with irate former bookseller, angry publishing rep and polite letters from bookstore chains. The hot news: publishers pay to have their book chosen as book of the month. And bestseller lists vary wildly.

It's still the school holidays and today we happened to go into three different bookstores in Berlin. One was a chain. My daughter loved it. If there's one thing the German chains do well it's keeping a large variety of teen fantasy fiction in stock. Which is great, if that's what you're into, and a lot of people are. I, however, felt patronised to find books I've enjoyed piled up on a messy table labelled "young & crazy".  

In the other two shops they knew exactly what I wanted and had it in stock or ordered it swiftly - although they had no teen fantasy sections. Independent bookstores here know they have to cater to niches and the fixed book prices help them compete with the chains, at least. Of course, they're closing down too as buyers go online, but some are thriving and the picture isn't as bleak as in the English-speaking world: "only" about a quarter of owner-run bookshops in Germany have closed down over the past ten years, as opposed to around half of all high-street bookshops in the UK over seven years, as the Torygraph reported. There's a plan to try and get the state to support independent booksellers, as this interesting Süddeutsche Zeitung piece explains. When I first heard about it I thought: what nonsense. Why should taxpayers fund private initiatives? But the way Felix Stephan comments on it, it does make more sense to me in that he describes independent booksellers as promoting literary diversity and supporting the independent publishing sector. I'm on the fence now, to be honest. 

Anyway, the other news that I'm trying not to find too sad is that Dialogue Books are shutting up shop in Berlin. But hey, they'll still do their excellent events and book clubs and their literary agency thing that they do. Starting with an open event about the future of translation, in conjunction with SAND mag. I shall see you all there. My daughter may well be sulking in the corner behind a teen fantasy book.

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