Abike Ullrich has been working at Libri since 2012 and has been involved in the development of the ebook line-up and tolino ereading services right from the start. As the head of the Libri.Digital team, she gives insights in the following interview into the development of the ebook range and the interplay with publishers on the one hand and the tolino alliance with their bookshops on the other.
Abike, the central tolino range now comprises more than 3 million ebooks. What books are listed? What can readers expect?
Yes, our digital warehouse really is well-stocked … it’s hard to imagine such a number of books. However, the book industry is also very diverse and this diversity is reflected in the ebook range that we provide. Fiction plays a particularly large role with almost 30% of all book titles and is the most popular. But non-fiction and specialist books also make up a not inconsiderable share of what we offer in a digital format.
Where do you attribute the growth of the last few years?
In general, we have paid special attention to broadening the range of ebooks and thus ensuring the availability of current bestsellers as well as publishers‘ backlist titles. We were able to increase the number of fiction titles by 28 percent*. The range of titles in the non-fiction and self-help product group rose by 34 percent*, and by as much as 39 percent* for “social sciences/law/economics”. International publishers such as Springer and Elsevier have also ensured strong growth here.
What roles do foreign-language titles play?
A large one, I’m pleased to say – along with German-language books, tolino also offers its readers an extensive English-language range. Totalling some 1.9 million ebooks, this accounts for 63 percent of the entire catalogue. German-language titles make up 27 percent. We can and want to add more French content, which is of particular interest to booksellers in Switzerland.
The advantage of ebooks is clearly evident with international titles: they are always immediately available and ready to read. This is something that we recently were able to observe again when the Nobel Prize for Literature was surprisingly awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah, who comes from Tanzania and lives in Great Britain. Print editions were almost completely unavailable for purchase. However, the original versions had already been published as ebooks by Bloomsbury, our content provider. It is precisely this possibility of making a wide and varied range of titles in digital form immediately available to bookstores and their readers, which in my opinion, is one of the main advantages of digital reading.
Libri has been the central content supplier for the tolino alliance in the DACH region for the last two years. What tasks come with this role?
We have been providing tolino with ebooks since 2013 and have been the central content supplier since 2019. Our tasks are very broad-based: teams from a wide variety of specialist disciplines are working on this topic – from IT and digital product management to customer service – to name just a few. In essence, we make the ebooks available to customers via the tolino ecosystem. This process begins with the procurement of the ebooks, inputting titles and data into our systems as well as the provision of content to tolino digital booksellers and the tolino ecosystem. Rights management, quality assurance and the maintenance of metadata are all part of this.
But also involvement in the conceptual and technical further development of the ereading solution in cooperation with all tolino partners. The tolino alliance is working continuously to enhance the digital reading experience as well as implementing new functions for readers.
In what way does the Libri.Digital team collaborate with publishers and booksellers on a day-to-day basis?
Here we are the central interface: we talk to the publishers and publishing service providers about content-specific requirements that arise at tolino or Libri.Digital and in turn bring their publisher-specific requirements and perspectives into the tolino alliance. This covers rights, technical functions, reporting and a great many other things.
We also support all those involved if from time to time there is a hitch with digital delivery. Quality management and content support are very important areas of responsibility so that we can delight and inspire our customers with positive reading experiences.
There‘s a great feeling of enthusiasm for ereading in your team. What makes this topic so exciting?
It would be best to interview each team member when it comes to this question – I’m sure there would be lots of different answers! I think the varied tasks, but also the challenges and the dynamic environment play a big part, especially when it comes to implementing technical innovations.
As a partner in the tolino alliance, we serve multiple target groups with our services: the focus is of course on the readers, for whom the tolino alliance is providing attractive ereading offerings with its growing range of ebooks. Then there are the 2,000 bookstores that are connected to the digital distribution channel via their online shops. And more than 9,400 publishers and over 1 million authors are pleased with the visibility of their digital books under the strong tolino brand. This interplay is unique in the German book trade – and in this form it is also a prime example internationally.
Many thanks for the exciting insights, Abike!
* Percentage increase from December 2019 to September 2021