Here’s a couple of small German houses implying that they see the publishing business as a whole declining. At least I think that’s what they are saying at this Publishing Perspectives piece.

I suspect (hope) they are being unduly pessimistic, or at least over-generalizing. Overall book sales numbers, at least in USA, remain encouraging, and population numbers keep going up so there are just more folk to buy a book. It must often be difficult for publishers to see the wood for the trees: their own trees are so overwhelmingly significant to them that when they try to look at the wood, what they must see is the grove consisting of their own titles, plus a vague impression of the surrounding forest. If your sales are down, things must be bad. If your sales are up, things are good. But clearly at this sort of scale all sorts of little effects could be responsible, rather than some industry-wide trend. Maybe your sales reps are not too effective, maybe your discount schedule isn’t right, maybe the jackets are dull, heck, maybe the books are just not as good as they were a couple of years ago.

“Germans, like everybody else in the world, tend to read less and less. We sell half what we sold 10 years ago. Half.” Thus Jürgen Christian Kill of Liebeskind. Print numbers are down: more people are buying fewer copies of more titles. But “Half”? I believe it’s at least possible that Liebeskind, founded in 2000, and publishing 8-10 books a year, started out with some exciting books that sold really well, and is finding it hard to repeat the trick.

On this old plaint that people, whether German or not, are reading less, please see Is the Internet killing reading?