Differences and similarities between the UK and the German publishing industry

First of all, it is not possible to sum up all the differences and similarities between the UK and German publishing industries in just one article, so this article will just touch on the topic. I will mention the VAT regularities for books in both countries, the netbook agreement, and finally an overview of different network bodies and associations in each country.


First of all, it is not possible to sum up all the differences and similarities between the UK and German publishing industries in just one article, so this article will just touch on the topic. I hope that I can still give you a good summary of the most important key points from my point of view (as a student of Book Studies in Germany who has studied Publishing for a while). I will mention the VAT regularities for books in both countries, the netbook agreement, and finally an overview of different network bodies and associations in each country (hopefully this might also be useful for research questions).

The book market in both countries is protected by different regularities by each government, because of the cultural status of the book. To do so, there are special VAT requirements for books in both countries. In the UK, books are included in the zero-rated goods which means that they are still VAT-taxable but the charged rate for the customer is 0%. A similar law applies in Germany: Instead of the general VAT of 19%, customers who are buying books only have to pay 7% VAT (reduzierter Mehrwertssteuersatz).

Another specific law for books in Germany is the so-called netbook agreement (Buchpreisbindung). This means that the publisher fixes a specific price for a book and everyone who wants to sell this book has to sell it for this fixed price. It is not allowed to sell it for a higher price nor for a lower price (and yes, this includes Amazon!). Some exceptions exist for specific editions of a book or for remaindered books, in this case the fixed price is superseded. But in general, every book has a specific price and it costs the same in every shop in Germany. Like I said before, this even applies to Amazon which means people in Germany who buy a book on Amazon have to pay the same price as they would in a bookshop. I do not go further into the consequences of a valid netbook agreement, but I would love to see a discussion in the comments and to hear about different opinions and possible advantages and disadvantages on a book market which is protected by a netbook agreement.

There are some network bodies and associations in the UK publishing industry who have a similar counterpart in Germany. Hopefully the list below is useful for research (unfortunately not all is available in English, but there may be English summaries).

Publishing Scotland Börsenverein des deutschen Buchhandels
Nielsen Book Scan Buch und Buchhandel in Zahlen (Börsenverein*)
Bookseller Börsenblatt (Börsenverein*)



The Society of Young Publishers Junge Verlagsmenschen e.V.

Both societies try to cooperate!

London Book Fair

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Frankfurter Buchmesse (international)

Leipziger Buchmesse (national)

*Academic note: The Börsenverein has advantages and disadvantages. I, personally, would never just look at their data, make sure you find similar numbers with other resources (especially for ebooks).

Please feel free to continue my list or add more facts about the book market in both countries! Also, I will do my best to answer any questions you may have.

Network Network Network

Before deciding to study publishing, speaking to people came naturally. I could approach a stranger at an event easily and spark a conversation because there was no ulterior motive for doing so, other than the sheer enjoyment of human interaction. Now, however, I do have an agenda: I want to be noticed. I want to be remembered. I want to make an impression so that someone, somewhere will one day think I’ll be an asset to their company.

When I began Napier’s course, I was encouraged to attend as many events as possible and to grab every opportunity by the horns. This had never been an issue for me before because I either decided to go to an event or I decided to stay at home. If I wasn’t feeling up to it, or had a rare day of feeling shy, I felt no guilt in curling up in my jammies and spending the evening binge watching Netflix instead. But now, I can’t afford to stay at home and miss out on meeting all the important people. The guilt is real. I know that if I don’t go, I’m only disadvantaging myself and my future career. That being said, whilst I do want to emphasise the importance of getting out there and interacting with people in the industry, because hey, they’re bloomin’ incredible folk, I have discovered an absolute saviour in the networking business: Twitter.

Twitter is definitely something I stayed away from pre-publishing degree. I didn’t understand how to use it properly, and again, I had no real agenda. Connecting with friends was far easier via other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Snapchat. But upon venturing into the publishing industry, Twitter has become my holy grail for when I need to network but am not particularly feeling up to it. I cannot stress the value of this incredibly, sometimes dauntingly, fast-paced-updated-by-the-second environment. There is no better way to stay in the loop and up-to-date with the publishing industry. I can refresh my feed every minute and someone will have a new opinion, there will be a new article to read or a new connection suggested. Even better, I can do it all in my pyjamas with Netflix on in the background.

One of the many major benefits of Twitter is the ability to participate in live conversations. The SYP are extremely well versed in this, and often host live chat Q&A evenings. These typically last an hour and allow people from all over the world to engage with people in the industry. You can voice your fears and receive comfort, share your experiences, teach others valuable lessons and learn anything and everything in the space of an hour. Above all, you can make those all important connections, whilst simultaneously cooking dinner.

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Various events I’ve attended have shown me that having a strong Twitter identity really pays off when meeting people face to face. If you’re active in the community and your profile is recognisable and memorable, then chances are someone will remember that conversation they had with you, where you helped them overcome a fear, or gave them advice they later followed.

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Finally, I suggest really getting to know how Twitter works. Use ALL the hashtags, even base your tweets around being able to hashtag as much as possible and include the publisher in your tweets when talking about a book.

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Show that you have an interest in the industry and that you appreciate someone’s work. The engagement these tweets can generate is unreal, and allows people in the industry to see that you’re an active member of their community.

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If you’re new to Twitter like I was, build an identity that you’d be happy to show a potential employer. Be someone that your mum would be proud of and that someone in the industry would want to meet. It’s also great when someone’s accusing you of not being productive because you’re on your phone, (I’m looking at you, boyfriend) and you can tell them they’re wrong: you’re networking.

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My Twitter: @kiiimberellla