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Publishers and Book Fairs in Germany

Due to the rich tradition of German literature and philosophy, Germany is often called “the home of poets and philosophers”. Well, as an expat, you may not be interested in reading Goethe any time soon. Nonetheless, German literature has a lot to offer to Germans and foreign residents alike.
German book fairs come in all shapes and sizes.

German Publishers

If you are a bibliophile, Germany must be a book-lover’s heaven. About 93,000 books are published or re-published here every year. There is a rather large and diverse number of publishing houses throughout the country, especially in Munich and Berlin. Apart from the Big Five (the largest publishing companies in Germany: Bertelsmann, Holtzbrinck, Springer, Klett, Cornelsen), various small, independent publishers keep less commercialized literature alive. Among Germany’s book-sellers, there is a similar dichotomy between chain-stores such as Thalia or Hugendubel, and local book-shops.

The so-called Buchpreisbindung – a fixed price for books set by the publisher to prevent price dumping – is just another peculiarity of German literature. Without the Buchpreisbindung, experimental literature or special-interest books wouldn’t stand a chance against international bestsellers by the likes of J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, or Nicholas Sparks. The Buchpreisbindung is also valiantly defended by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, a nationwide lobby group representing the interests of authors, publishers, and booksellers in Germany.

Book Fairs and Other Events

The nationwide lobby group mentioned above also organizes Germany’s largest book fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig, as well as countless smaller events on a local basis. Such fairs and exhibitions are an excellent opportunity for all avid readers to find new reading material, to attend public readings, or to spark their kids’ interest in reading outside of school in Germany.

However, aside from the big book fairs, the majority of these events are in German. So if you aren’t fluent in German yet, you should ask organizers to recommend intercultural book fairs or foreign-language readings. You can also contact your embassy and ask about cultural institutes such as the Instituto Cervantes or the German-American Institute (Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut). They often schedule literary evenings and book clubs.

Bookshops and Libraries 

Even smaller bookshops can usually order all currently available titles for you. However, second-hand booksellers frequently specialize in used, rare, antiquarian and out-of-print books. Of course, big online book-stores like Amazon have a wide range of available titles, including both fiction and non-fiction in a selection of foreign languages. Within Germany, having books delivered to your home is free of charge.

However, if you prefer to spend less money on books, you could sign up with one of Germany’s 14,000 libraries. Most of them are public libraries supported by local municipalities or parish churches but some of them belong to one of the universities in Germany. Membership for adults costs between EUR 10 and 20 a year. Depending on size and funding, small-town libraries offer only a limited selection of titles, do not update their collection that often, and barely have any foreign-language material at all. But many are connected to a network of larger libraries in the region, whose inventories you can search via OPAC (open public-access catalogue). If you don’t mind a waiting period of a few days or a couple of weeks, your local librarian will be happy to order the titles of your choice.

 

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