Consumer books

So far, the influence of digitalisation on consumer books market revenue has been limited. The reading population is changing and the younger generation is waiting for the industry to respond.

Playing field

The Dutch books market grew again in 2016, with consumers defying digital trends in other sectors to hold on to their print purchases, where pricing remained steady. New digital services are also expanding the reach of books of all genres, pulling in a new generation of tech-savvy readers.

The Netherlands’ national e-book portal, available since 2014, provides registered members with access to over 15,000 titles. Any member of a public library can open an account and borrow up to ten e-books at a time. The titles are then available, for free, on their tablet, smartphone, e-reader, PC or laptop.

After Q1 2017, the Swedish audiobook company Storytel announced plans to invest in audiobook production and offer marketing services in the Netherlands, where it hopes to become profitable by 2018. Storytel entered the Dutch market in May 2016, after purchasing local book streaming service Mofibo and replacing it with its own brand. Storytel has a catalogue of over 40,000 audiobooks. Customers pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to its service.

The consumer books market is a tough one for start-ups, many of which ultimately fail to break through. Several initiatives and awards have been launched to support innovative ventures, including the annual Renew the Book award organised by start-up support company Rockstart and the Dutch Group of General Publishers (GAU).

The 2016 winner was Dutch company Bookarang. Bookarang offers artificial intelligence technology to libraries and bookstores to create book recommendation programmes for customers. The company has grown since winning Renew the Book last year and now counts the National Library of the Netherlands and bookstore chain AKO among its clients.

The 2017 public award went to startup Zola Books (USA), whose innovative system allows online merchants to sell any book in any format without having to send purchasers to another website. 



Consumer book publishing market (€ millions)
Netherlands Historical data Forecast data CAGR %
  2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 17-21
Print 545 506 466 479 500 515 526 533 538 541 1.6%
y-o-y growth   -7.1% -7.9% 2.8% 4.3% 3.0% 2.2% 1.4% 1.0% 0.6%  
Digital 12 19 19 19 21 23 24 25 25 26 3.5%
y-o-y growth   56.0% 0.0% 0.0% 13.1% 5.8% 4.6% 3.3% 2.1% 2.0%  
Total 557 525 485 498 521 537 549 558 564 567 1.7%
y-o-y growth   -5.7% -7.6% 2.7% 4.6% 3.1% 2.3% 1.5% 1.1% 0.6%  

Source: PwC, Ovum, Koninklijke Vereniging van het Boekenvak. Note: Totals may not sum to 100%, because of rounding off.

What’s new

Canadian film Kobo launched Kobo Plus in February 2017, offering unlimited e-book access to customers in the Netherlands and Belgium for €9.99 per month. June 2017 figures show that, following a free trial of the service, 75% of users have paid for a monthly subscription since the launch. Kobo Plus hopes to provide 20,000 e-books in Dutch by the end of 2017, helping to increase readership as well as reduce piracy in the e-book industry.

Based on the Dutch court’s preliminary ruling (July 2017) in the case between e-book reseller Tom Kabinet and two publishers, “used” e-books may be resold in the Netherlands. The ruling suggests that e-book sales in the Netherlands may be much less lucrative than publishers have envisaged.


E-book lending by libraries is generally a missed opportunity for the Dutch books industry. Despite the market launch of new e-book services like Kobo Plus, publishers have failed to capitalise on the growing appetite for digital titles as piracy erodes revenues and e-book prices remain lower than print.

More than 50% of the full reading population in the Netherlands are in the 50+ age category. The younger demographic is clearly less interested in written media than other demographics and the importance of audio-visual media is increasing. Digital books account for only around 5% of revenue in the Dutch consumer books market and reaching the younger generation will be essential for long-term development of the industry.

Contact us

Wouter Poot

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 50 39

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