While German publishing giant Bertelsmann is buying into barnesandnoble.com to compete with Amazon.com in online book sales in the US, a small start-up has moved into second place in the German market, and is considering a flotation on Frankfurt’s Neuer Markt. Munich-based Buecher.de only became operational on January 1 this year, but it reckons to have overtaken Bertelsmann’s own online initiative in Germany, Boulevard.de, for the second slot in the country’s market, directly behind what used to be known as ABC Buecherdienst and has now been re-christened Amazon.de. However, while the market leader has a share of between 40% and 50%, estimates Buecher.de CEO Oliver Buecken, his company currently has around 10%, with Boulevard.de at 7% or 8%, followed by a lot of smaller initiatives. As it did in the US, Amazon.com has a number of exclusive advertising contracts with leading web sites, while Bertelsmann, as a partner of AOL, has exposure on its sites. Buecher.de is nonetheless collaborating with other search engines to advertise on their sites, Buecken explained. In addition, it has developed what Buecken termed ‘book-related links’, so that, if someone searches for information on, say, Berlin, it will also trigger an ad saying Buecher.de offers a number of titles on the subject, and so on. There are also marketing tactics such as offering a gift wrapping service at a flat rate, no matter how many books customers want to send as presents.
Having only started up in January, Buecken says it is difficult to predict sales for this year, not least because the Christmas period is traditionally a busy one for bookshops. Even so, he reckons sales for the year will come in at $1.8m-$3m, increasing next year to around $6m, and $9m-$12m in the year 2000, when the company also expects to turn in its first profit. That being the case, Buecken also wants it to go public that year, with the likely venue being the Neuer Markt in Frankfurt.