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Business

Book Sales Slump

With the typically slow summer season approaching, Germany's book retailers are eyeing cutbacks.

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The Leipzig Book Fair had a record number of visitors this spring - but the enthusiasm is not transferring to book sales

Book sales in Germany are down nearly 4 per cent in the first four months of the year, forcing several of the country’s major retailers to adopt or consider cost-saving measures.

Berlin-based Kiepert has paid only 70 per cent of employee wages in May and said job cuts are possible. While the national chain Hugendubel, with 1,100 employees at 28 stores, is thinking about cutting store and employee hours.

"At this point, we have no idea when the situation will improve," Dieter Schormann, chairman of the national book industry association, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "That makes it very depressing."

Nearly all sectors of the German economy are in retreat, but the industry association said book stores are facing the worst crisis in decades, with sales in 2002 expected to be 7 per cent lower than in 2001.

Worsening the situation is the fact that this year’s releases have failed to produce a best-seller such as last fall’s hit "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

The slump is hitting all sectors of the industry, from small, speciality stores to national chains.

In the United States, by comparison, the Association of American Publishers expects a 2.8 per cent gain in book sales in 2002. Nonetheless, book sellers are not elated.

"Negative reports about the publishing industry's imminent demise seem to be surfacing every week," said Pat Schroeder, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, earlier this month. "To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of our death are greatly exaggerated."

Referring to her association’s projections for 2002 sales, she said: "While this may be modest growth it's a far cry from the end of the world."

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