First of all, readers in Belgium and Monaco can also purchase Pegasus Pulp (or any other) e-books via Amazon France without paying the 2 dollar Amazon surcharge.
None of this changes that the European e-book market is still very small. David Gaughran offers a nice overview of the European e-book market at Let’s Get Digital. Personally, I think he’s a bit too optimistic to believe that Germany is only two years or so behind the US in the development of the e-book market. Even though the Kindle is new, e-readers have been available in Germany for several years now, for example the bookselling chains Thalia and Weltbild both offer e-readers. The truth is that certain factors which enabled the rapid growth of e-books in the US and the rejection of print books (many American e-book advocates really seem to hate print books) simply don’t exist in Germany. And the fixed book price agreement is only one factor.
This time last year, e-books made up only 0.5 percent of all books sold in Germany. The figure will almost certainly have risen by now, considering that Amazon opened the German Kindle store earlier this year and that the bookseller chain Weltbild/Hugendubel is offering a colour e-reader for only 59.99 Euros now. The drawback is that the screen is LCD rather than e-ink.
With a comparatively small market, electronic self-publishing is also just getting started in Germany. Except for Amazon.de and XinXii (neither of which is purely German), all German e-publishing platforms and aggregators I have examined offer pretty bad conditions, demand start-up fees and sometimes also want to edit and approve your book (I believe that editing is important, but I don’t want to be force-edited by an e-publishing platform). At least one of those platforms is also run by a traditional publisher who is one of the much cited “big six”, i.e. there is a big conflict of interest there.
However, the various indie publishing success stories have also reached the German media by now. Indeed, my Mom told me that she had heard about Amanda Hocking on the radio.
There have also been a couple of articles in the media. Spiegel Online offers a nice overview of the indie publishing phenomenon with shout-outs to Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath and Stephen Leather. There is also an interview with Amanda Hocking and a follow-up article with German self-publishing stories (not mine, alas). The Spiegel articles are generally positive, though there is some condescension towards the fact that most indie authors are writing genre fiction. And of course there is more condescension towards Amanda Hocking who writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy (the article author’s attempts to translated both terms, which have no German equivalent, is very amusing) than towards Joe Konrath or Stephen Leather who write in the more respectable thriller and crime fiction genres.
The staid public TV station ZDF (inofficial tagline: Programming for the demographic of 80 to 120-year-olds) naturally views the e-book and indie publishing phenomenon with a huge dose of skepticism and negativity. Take the following posts on the ZDF Hyperland blog, which focuses on internet topics (and is therefore as modern as the ZDF gets): Here is a skeptical post on quickie e-books on current subjects (Mind you, the Bin Laden e-book mentioned in the post was published by Random House, i.e. a traditional publisher) and here is a post entitled “The Great E-Book Con”.
The title says it all really, though there is useful information hidden behind the polemic title, namely a warning of scammers who charge hundreds of Euros for guides about how to make a quick buck with e-books. Most likely, those guides are about selling private label rights e-books, a sort of scam I can’t stand anyway. So Hyperland is doing a public service by warning of scammers.
However, they don’t stop there. Instead, they go on to state that e-books sell badly (well, in Germany they do) and that hardly anybody can make a living publishing e-books. As an example they offer Wolfgang Tischer who wrote a German language guide to Kindle e-publishing and blogged about his experiences. However, Tischer is actually doing well in the tiny German market, though not as well as John Locke or David Gaughran with their respective e-publishing guides.
Even worse is that Hyperland complains that Amazon “takes 30 percent of the author’s sales”. Do they have any idea how low the royalties for traditionally published authors are?