3 things to know about books and reading in Europe

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Victoria Masterson, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • The price of books in the European Union is growing at a slower rate than general consumer goods.
  • Total consumer prices rose by 14% but books only saw a 12% rise (June 2011 – June 2021).
  • E-books have seen the biggest cost increase while educational textbooks are down in price.
  • Sales of printed books are falling but they are still the most popular way to read, studies suggest.

It’s always difficult to put a price on knowledge or calculate the value of artfully written prose; but if you’re reading a book in Europe at the moment it represents pretty good value for money.

The EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, has been comparing the price trends of books against those of general consumer prices.

According to Eurostat’s Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), the overall price of books grew less than total consumer prices between June 2011 and June 2021.

this chart shows that book prices in the European Union are growing more slowly than consumer goods overall
Book prices in the European Union are growing more slowly than consumer goods overall. Image: Pick up a book and read!, Eurostat

What is the World Economic Forum’s Book Club?

The World Economic Forum launched its official Book Club on Facebook in April 2018. Readers worldwide are invited to join and discuss a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction. It is a private Facebook group dedicated to discussing one book every month.

Each month, we announce a new book on our social media channels. We then publish an extract and begin a chapter-by-chapter discussion with group members. Selected comments and questions are sent to the author, who in return sends us a video response.

Unlike other book clubs, the group features the direct involvement of the authors, giving you – our global audience with members all around the globe – a chance to directly connect with some of the most influential thinkers and experts in the world.

We have featured authors such as Steven Pinker, Elif Shafak, Yuval Noah Harari, and Melinda Gates.

You can join the Book Club here.

Follow us on Twitter here.

Follow us on Instagram here.

While the price of books grew 12% in the decade to 2021, total consumer prices climbed 14%.

Printed books remain the most popular way of reading but e-books are growing in price as well as popularity.

Eurostat’s data on the pricing of different book genres tracks price rises between December 2016 and June 2021. It shows the cost of e-books rose by 12% in that period. The price of works of fiction rose 6% but the cost of educational textbooks fell by 2% during the same timeframe.

The international book trade

The value of exports of printed books from the European Union in 2020 stood at €1.7 billion ($2.0 billion). In the same year the bloc imported books with a value of €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion). These figures have remained largely consistent between 2010 and 2020. Compared with 2019, there was a decrease in 2020 of 12% for exports and 6% for imports.

Germany, France and Spain were the leading European importers and exporters of books in 2020.

this chart shows how the sales of printed books in the European Union fell 15% between 2019 and 2020
Sales of printed books in the European Union fell 15% between 2019 and 2020. Image: Pick up a book and read!, Eurostat

With more of us reading on our smartphones, tablets and e-readers, it’s no surprise that sales of e-books are growing.

During the first pandemic lockdown in the UK, 18% of people said they were reading more e-books, research group Nielson found. Nine percent also said they were listening to more audiobooks.

Beyond the EU, sales of paper books remain strong. A separate study by Statista shows that while 23% of people bought an e-book last year, 45% bought a printed book.

A community of readers

If you’re stuck for ideas on what to read next you can join the World Economic Forum’s Book Club. Each month a new title is uploaded and members discuss the book, with direct input into the conversation from the author.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

European Commission: the LED lights of your Audi A6 shall save our planet

A new approach to scaling-up renewable power in emerging markets

Ensure that widows are ‘not left out or left behind’, UN chief urges on International Day

COVID-19 wave III and the lessons learned

Threats from mammoth banks and Brussels fuel May’s poll rates

EU and Amazon cut deal to end antitrust investigation over e-books deals

MEPs urge EU countries to be transparent about their COVID-19 vaccine supplies

Here’s how private investors can turn plastic into gold

Still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in all EU countries

Africa is set to get its first vertical forest

‘Millions facing starvation’ – Global political and business leaders on the economic impact of COVID-19

How the gender commuting gap could be harming women’s careers

Will 2020 be the year blockchain overcomes its hype?

Progress in medical research: leading or lagging behind?

Bacteria vs. humans: how to fight in this world war?

The future of energy is being shaped in Asia

What we know and what we don’t know about universal basic income

The first new university in the UK for 40 years is taking a very different approach to education

OECD household income up 0.7% in first quarter of 2018, outpacing GDP growth

First seat projections for the next European Parliament

The energy industry is changing. Are governments switched on?

What is the IMF telling Eurozone about fiscal and banking unification?

Trump ‘used’ G20 to side with Putin and split climate and trade packs

Re-thinking citizenship education: bringing young people back to the ballot box

Commission issues guidance on the participation of third country bidders in the EU procurement market

Car rentals: EU action leads to clearer and more transparent pricing

What’s going on in Chernobyl today?

Here’s how we get businesses to harmonize on climate change

Why are the Balkans’ political leaders meeting in Geneva this week?

Support for EU remains at historically high level despite sceptics

US pardons for accused war criminals, contrary to international law: UN rights office

European Business Summit 2015: In search of a vision for the future

Brexit casts a shadow over the LSE – Deutsche Börse merger: a tracer of how or if brexit is to be implemented

Migrants and refugees face higher risk of developing ill-health, says UN report on displaced people in Europe

Autumn 2019 Standard Eurobarometer: immigration and climate change remain main concerns at EU level

Stop the waste: UN food agencies call for action to reduce global hunger

The term AI overpromises. Let’s make machine learning work better for humans instead

How blended finance helped to keep energy supplies flowing during COVID-19

What will a post-pandemic economy look like? Here’s what chief economists expect

Innovation is the key to the pay-TV industry’s long-term growth

Mergers: Commission approves GlaxoSmithKline’s acquisition of Pfizer’s Consumer Health Business, subject to conditions

Coronavirus: Commission launches call for innovative response and recovery partnerships between EU regions

Parliament names radio studio after journalists murdered in December attack

4 things to know about the state of conflict today

World-famous cultural institutions closed due to coronavirus are welcoming virtual visitors

As Houthi forces withdraw from key Yemeni ports, UN monitoring chief welcomes ‘first practical step on the ground’

Get out, stay out: how financial resilience helps end poverty

The ‘ASEAN way’: what it is, how it must change for the future

30 years of tissue engineering, what has been achieved?

Businesses are lacking moral leadership, according to employees

Mental health and suicide prevention

‘Perseverance is key’ to Iraq’s future, UN envoy tells Security Council

Belgium: Youth Forum takes legal step to ban unpaid internships

European Commission recommends common EU approach to the security of 5G networks

The Future of Balkans: Embracing Education

The European Parliament fails to really restrict the rating agencies

Gas pipeline in the European Union. (Copyright: EU, 2012 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Ferenc Isza)

EU Investment Bank approves € 1.5bn loan for Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)

Could Europe become the first climate-neutral continent?

Venezuela’s needs ‘significant and growing’ UN humanitarian chief warns Security Council, as ‘unparalleled’ exodus continues

More Stings?


  1. This post was truly worthwhile to read. I wanted to say thank you for the key points you have pointed out as they are enlightening.

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s