Weltbild is the second largest bookstore in Germany and the company has a very complex ownership group that was not willing to put anymore money into it. On January 10th 2014 the company officially filed for insolvency and the future of the German book selling landscape looks bleak.
Weltbild’s owners is a very complex consortium of over a dozen dioceses of the Catholic Church. The ownership group was not happy that the bookseller put a huge priority on erotica titles both in tangible and electronic format. When holiday sales stayed much below expectations, and the required investment skyrocketed from €60 million to an estimated €160 million, the owners decided to pull the plug.
The bookstore chain eked out a modest annual income of over €1.6 billion dollars and has a dedicated workforce of 6,800. Weltbild is considered one of the largest media and book trading houses in Europe, with operations primarily in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It boggles most industry annalists minds that a company of this magnitude can collapse in a short period of time.
Adjusting to the new digital landscape was something the Weltbild group did very early on. They started selling eBooks a few years ago, before Amazon officially entered Germany. The Tolino Shine was a product of Weltbild, Thalia, and various Telecom companies to offer a low-cost e-reader and market it to German citizens. Sadly, the unit sales did not meet expectations and in conjunction with poor holiday sales and rising costs, the curtain was closed.
The imminent closure of Weltbild will have reverberating effects on the entire German and European publishing industry. There is one less sales channel to distribute and sell tangible books. London Book Fair will be especially interesting this year to see how the industry is reacting and what adjustments will be made to sell books.