Online-Buchhandel in Deutschland.
Die Buchhandelsbranche vor der Herausforderung des Internet

Ulrich Riehm; Carsten Orwat; Bernd Wingert
Karlsruhe: Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe 2001, ISBN: 3-923704-36-4


POB-Buchcover This study focuses on online book trading and describes recent developments in the book retailing industry especially in Germany. It analyses the main types of conventional and online book retailers, and investigates and assesses the consequences of the situation. To investigate the consequences of the development within the book retailing industry, the analysis proceeds in steps that encompass the entire book retailing industry, the main developments of Internet use and online commerce, and the technological innovations that are relevant for the production, distribution and consumption of books. Thereby the structure of the study at hand is as follows.

Chapter 1 provides an introduction and describes the research approach which includes interviews with industry experts. In Chapter 2, we explore the book retailing industry and the significant book market trends towards higher market concentration, increasing market share of book store chains as well as the durability of established distribution channels. The evolving kinds and patterns of Internet use and customers' behaviour in electronic commerce as well as their implications for online book retailing are described in Chapter 3.

The three following chapters are the heart of the study. In Chapter 4, we present a survey of recent types of online book retailers and their specific characteristics. The different types include, for example, conventional book retailers with their own online branches, conventional book retailers participating in online platforms of book wholesalers, pure online retailers, some without their own warehouse and distribution logistics, and pure online exchange platforms for B2C and C2C book trading. Chapter 5 is dedicated to four technological innovations that may have a serious impact on the book retailing industry. We consider (1) the concept of "Books on Demand", (2) "eBooks" as a dedicated reading device and as a comprehensive commercial system, (3) the prototype of a German ebook producer and distributor, as well as (4) the technical and commercial concept to provide and retail digital content in small portions on the Internet. In Chapter 6 we change to a more scientific perspective to examine the hypothesis of an intensified "disintermediation" in the book retailing industry. The hypothesis states that internet technology will enable and foster the direct trade connection between producers and consumers and thereby support the elimination of the trading middlemen or intermediaries. However, by applying economic theory and practical observations we cannot validate the disintermediation proposition in total. Tendencies of changes in the retail structure appear not to be unidirectional, especially, there are a lot of new online intermediaries with specifically combined roles of retailing. Therefore we shed light on the advantages and disadvantages of online direct distribution, online retailing and conventional retailing of printed and electronic books.

In Chapter 7, the conclusion of the study is drawn in the form of seven statements:

  1. Besides the structural and functional change in book retailing, which can be observed for several years, there is now also a change in media. Not only the media, which were traded are becoming more and more digital but also the location where trade takes place too.

  2. Pure online book retailing will not easily and completely substitute conventional book retailing.

  3. The Internet provides new market opportunities and enables new trading types in book retailing, which is exemplified by the increased trade with used books.

  4. Conventional book wholesalers place themselves in a strong position, in spite of the disintermediation threat. On the contrary they benefit from online book retailing, because they deliver books and catalog data to the online book retailer.

  5. Potentials of rationalisation within the distribution chain are not always compatible with the personal rationality of actors.

  6. The concepts of "virtualisation" and increased use of electronic networks in business characterise also the new types of book trading.

  7. German book retailers are preparing themselves for a situation that is threatened more by the deregulation of the book price control rather than by the Internet.


Ulrich Riehm
Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe
Institut für Technikfolgenabschätzung
und Systemanalyse (ITAS)
Postfach 3640
D-76021 Karlsruhe
Hermann-von-Helmholtz-Platz 1
D-76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen

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Last update: 07.12.2001 - Comments to:     Ulrich Riehm