Deutsch, Services, Bookselling

“Buy local” during Covid-19 – How German booksellers encourage local shopping online; and what is happening in the UK

Since the 18th of March 2020, all non-essential shops in Germany have been closed owing to the current Covid-19 crisis. Like everywhere else in the world, this affects small shops in particular and even though many offer click & collect or delivery services for their products, the danger of the vast majority of customers simply buying from one of the online giants is incredibly high. Small shops (with less than 800 m3 of shop floor) and all bookshops are now due to reopen from today, but they will have to operate under strict hygiene rules and the expected footfall will remain low.

To inform the consumers about their options and ways to support local shops, the German bookshop chains Thalia Mayersche and Osiander teamed up and started the initiative www.shopdaheim.de (which translates into “shop at home”) about 10 days after the closures. Initially, it was a database of about 1,000 bookshops – you are able to search by postcode or place name and see all the local shops that offer some kind of delivery or collection service locally. Within 2 weeks, nearly all of the 3,000 bookshops in the country joined and now – after 4 weeks – 10,000 shops in 41 industries are listed. The site experiences more than 100,000 views a day (at peak times up to half a million) and has become such a success that recently the Austrian equivalent www.shopdaheim.at was launched.

The site still has its main focus on bookshops, but includes shops that sell confectionary, cosmetics, baby products, flowers, perfumes, fashion, sports and more. Several chains (Intersport, DHL, Douglas perfumes, the drug store chain DM and Blume2000, a flower shop chain) are contributing to the marketing and PR of the site whilst the original founders have invested a 6-digit Euro sum into the site. Currently, the listing of a shop is free of charge, but it might be possible that the display of a shop logo or inclusion into marketing campaigns will become chargeable in future – the owners are planning to keep the platform running; after all, local shops having a shared platform to encourage consumers to shop locally is a good idea at the best of times.

shopdaheim Logo

The UK is less fortunate than Germany. Not only are all the bookshops closed, but some of the distributors have closed down their operations and furloughed their staff.  Gardners, one of the UK’s leading book wholesalers and distributors, closed before the end of March and Amazon is no longer stocking new titles, as it says it must focus on storing and distributing more essential products. It’s still possible to buy some print titles direct from online booksellers such as Waterstones and some publishers are also selling print direct – Bloomsbury, for example, has a well-established online ordering service for both print and electronic books which so far it has continued to maintain.  Many online sellers are also making extra promotional efforts to sell e-books; it will be interesting to see if this results in another spike in e-book purchase, which has long plateaued at around 10% of all sales in the trade sector. 

Libraries are also closed but also promoting their digital services. The British Library has contacted all its members to explain how to access its huge resource of online collections. Some public libraries are still making their online collections available, but others have closed down their services altogether. 

Academic libraries in the UK are also all closed, but their staff are still working from home and making Herculean efforts to provide as extensive a service as possible to all their patrons – students, lecturers and researchers.  Most have built up extensive online collections over the past twenty years which have now become an even more valuable resource than they were prior to the lockdown, but users still need support when accessing these and help in finding exactly the materials they want. 

When the lockdown is relaxed, it is difficult to predict which businesses will become casualties. In recent years, the UK has enjoyed a resurgence of both small independent bookshops and independent literary publishers.  Many of these businesses are run on a shoestring, propelled by enthusiasm and love for books rather than any more concrete financial backing. Our culture would be the poorer if we were to lose them, so it will be worth making an extra effort to support them when they are able to trade again. In the meantime, we could do worse than set up our own version of “Shopdaheim” in the UK.

[Written by Annika Bennett and Linda Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Academic Publishing, Apprentices, Deutsch

Apprenticeships in academic publishing – part 3: Germany

For the past two weeks this blog has focused on apprenticeships in academic publishing. In earlier blog posts, we talked about the – relatively new – system of apprenticeships in the UK.

Today, we would like to look at Germany, where the apprenticeship scheme has been long established and where apprentices have worked in publishing for many decades. Of course, apprentices have been learning the skills of certain trades for centuries, but a standardised apprenticeship scheme was first introduced in the Germany in the 1920s. Then, many trades applied standards that were thereafter recognised country-wide and guaranteed that each apprentice learned certain basics of his or her trade within the apprenticeship scheme. Since then, the standard length of an apprenticeship has been established as 3 years (some of them can be shortened under certain conditions); and so-called “Berufsschule” (a kind of FE college) is compulsory for each apprentice. Usually, apprentices will spend between one and two days a week at school, and the rest of the time in the companies to which they have been apprenticed. During the school time, they study subjects relevant to their trade, but are also taught English as a foreign language; and German, Politics and Maths, to ensure a rounded general knowledge. At the end of their apprenticeship they have to sit exams – both academic ones (at school) and practical ones (usually a final piece of work that is judged by an external jury). They then get their formal qualification, which is nationally recognised. Apprentices in Germany receive a basic salary from the company that employs them, and their tutor is usually their manager within the company.

In some trades, it is possible – or even necessary if you want to work as self-employed and/or train apprentices yourself – to add a higher-level “Meister” (master craftsman) qualification in the same profession.  It requires study in Business Studies, Law and Pedagogy, as well as becoming proficient in the expert knowledge and skills of the trade.

Apprentices first joined German publishing companies in the 1950s, when a national curriculum for the profession, “Kaufmann im Zeitschriftenverlag” (businessman in magazine publishing) was established. It didn’t take long for non-magazine publishers to follow suit and soon the job title was changed into “Verlagskaufmann” (Business Administration, Publishing). This changed again several times until in 2006, the current name of “Medienkaufmann/-frau Digital und Print” (Media Business Administration for digital and print) was established.

Therefore, German publishing companies have been employing and training apprentices for several decades and they are an integral part of each publishing company.

To find out more details we spoke to Nadine, who started her 3 years’ apprenticeship with a German pharmaceutical publisher in autumn 2019. (She wishes not to be named in full and asked for her employer to remain anonymous)

“I am doing an apprenticeship as ‘Medienkauffrau Digital und Print’ (Media Business Administration for digital and print) with an addition qualification in Media Economics, publishing. The main focus of my apprenticeship is the production of different kind of media, but I also learn about the planning, marketing, finances and many more things. The company I work in mainly publishes academic books and journals, and so far I have been very involved in the marketing of products and advertising sales. However, as an apprentice I change departments frequently, and even within each department the kind of jobs I have vary hugely. This ensures that I learn about the publishing process and the many different departments that contribute to a successful product. At the end of my apprenticeship, I am expected to know how different departments and workflows relate and I should be able to work in any part of the publishing process. It means that one day I may be analysing sales figures and, on another day, I am looking through a selection of freebies to send to customers. That’s what I enjoy about my apprenticeship – I find it interesting to work on a journal that contains specialist knowledge.  Even if most of the content is too specific for me to understand, I have found many interesting articles that have helped me already.
Before I started my apprenticeship, I completed my “Abitur” (A-Levels) at a Sixth Form that specialised in Design and Media. A-Levels were necessary for the apprenticeship, but the main reason for completing them was to keep my options open for the future. At “Berufsschule” (college) I go into a special class for apprentices who are working for additional qualifications: we are also being taught Business English, presentation techniques and rhetoric, and the handling of New Media. In addition to this, we all learn about Business Administration, industry-relevant law, production (for example we learn about paper quality and printing costs), budgeting, multimedia (programmes like Photoshop or InDesign), design and skills in computer applications such as Excel or Access.
I enjoy learning all of these things because they have a relevance to what I do in my job.  A university degree was not something I considered, because I didn’t want to learn purely academic subjects any longer.
The apprenticeship is meeting my expectations; it is never boring, and I get to do a variety of tasks. In my company the apprentices are continually being challenged but never overburdened, and it is always ok to make mistakes, too.
I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship like mine, especially to people who love to read. It is exciting to see how a product is being developed and to see it through from planning to sales. Also, this apprenticeship allows you to work in any department of a publishing house and to follow your strengths. That’s also my plan for the future: I hope I can stay at the company when I finish my apprenticeship, but I do not yet know which department I will want to work in, because I haven’t experienced all of them yet.”

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Deutsch, Students, Universities

Germany: Universities of Excellence – excellent universities?

The German university system has never had an equivalent to Oxbridge, Russell Group or the Ivy League. This is partially down to the way students are admitted – there are no (or very low) tuition fees and by law each university is obliged to offer all students with a German “Abitur” (A-level/IB equivalent) a place for Higher Education. Only if a certain course has more applicants than places can the university choose – and even then the choice must purely be based on A-level results.

Therefore, German universities are pretty egalitarian and cannot chose their undergraduate students and build a profile in the same way universities in other countries do, and students tend to choose their universities mainly based on location.
In more recent years, universities have been given more freedom to choose their postgraduate and PhD students, based on criteria they themselves can set, but since that is a recently new development it has not yet resulted in the same kind of profile building as UK and US universities have perfected.

Much high-ranking German research happens outside the universities: research societies like the Max-Planck Society, the Leibnitz Association, the Fraunhofer Society or the Helmoltz Association run over 200 non-university research centres and are empowered to award PhDs and PostDoc qualifications.

It may be asked, surely there must be a difference in quality between German universities?

The DFG (“Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft”, German Research Foundation) is the main funding body for research at German universities and has been responsible for funding of research in all disciplines since 1937. Over the last 15 years, the DFG has recognised that in order to participate in the international exchange of research and in international university rankings, a certain “elite”  status was necessary for some universities. Therefore in 2004  the DFG started the prestigious “Universities Excellence Initiative”, which initially supported certain “clusters of excellence” at a variety of universities. Effectively, selected interdisciplinary research projects and graduate schools were being awarded special funds for developing outstanding research.

This initiative evolved and was developed further over the years, and in 2019 was re-named the “Excellence Strategy”.  It nominated a selected number of universities as “Universities of Excellence” – awarding these institutions up to €15m annualy for research over a period of 7 years.  When this period time has elapsed,  each university is re-evaluated. On 19 July 2019 the DFG announced the 11 winning universities (list see below) that have been awarded this status.

The universities had to apply for selection and were evaluated by an international commission. The initiative focuses exclusively on research output. Whether or not teaching at these universities is “excellent” remains undecided; the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) and the German Rectors’ Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz) have both made it very clear they have no plans to establish an equivalent to the TEF.

The German “Universities of Excellence” are:

  • RWTH Aachen (Rheinisch Westfälisch Technische Hochschule)
  • “Berlin University Alliance” (including FU Berlin, Humboldt University Berlin, TU Berlin and Charité)
  • University of Bonn (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität)
  • Technical University of Dresden
  • University of Hamburg
  • Heidelberg University (Ruprechts-Karls-Universität)
  • KIT – Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • University of Konstanz
  • LMU – Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
  • Technical University of Munich
  • University of Tübingen (Eberhard-Karls-Universität).
Brexit, Deutsch, Digital Publishing, General

Brexit und Verlagswesen. Eine persönliche Stellungnahme einer britischen Deutschen

(This blog post has been written in German. To see an English translations, click here)

Heute ist „Brexit“-Tag. Eigentlich. Und was bedeutet das für dieses Land?

Heute sollten wir aus der EU austreten, hieß es. Nun also doch nicht.

Als die Briten vor 3 Jahren für ein Referendum an die Wahlurnen gebeten wurden, war vorher klar, dass das Ergebnis knapp ausfallen würden. Das tat es dann ja auch (52% zu 48%) – warum es in so einer Entscheidung keine Zweidrittel-Mehrheit brauchte, wundert mich noch heute. Viele Briten hatten die Nase voll von der EU, von seiner Bürokratie und Inflexibilität. Die Flüchtlingskrise hatte ihren Höhepunkt erreicht und es gab Angst vor Überfremdung, die zwar irrational und unabhängig von der EU war, aber von den sog. „Brexiteers“ wunderbar geschürt wurde. Einem maroden Gesundheitssystem wurde die magische Transformation zum Besseren versprochen und auch an anderen Stellen wurden der Bevölkerung Versprechungen gemacht, die niemals hätten gehalten werden können. Von Wirtschaftschaos, steigenden Preisen und Fachkräftemangel erfuhr die Bevölkerung erst, als es zu spät war. In der gesamten Thematik – angefangen von David Cameron’s Einberufung des Referendums, über die darauf folgende Kampagne, bis hin zur Durchführung – ging es immer nur um eines: Parteipolitik. Um Status und Macht von Einzelnen. Um das Wohl des Volkes und die Zukunft des Landes hat sich niemand geschert. Die Bevölkerung hat es nun endlich begriffen und das Parlament sitzt in einer Zwickmühle, aus der es nur schwer – wenn überhaupt – herauskommt.

Mehr und mehr meiner britischen Mitbürger sehen ein, dass es das Chaos, die Unsicherheit und das Risiko nicht wert war. Ja, die EU hat ihre Schwächen. Ja, es wäre manchmal einfacher und vielleicht auch wünschenswert, Entscheidungen ohne Abhängigkeit von Brüssel treffen zu können. Aber die Zeiten des britischen Empires sind vorbei, und Änderungen kann man nur bewirken, wenn man Teil des Ganzen ist.

Die Stimmung im Land ist anders als sie es vor 3 Jahren war. Die Bevölkerung wurde durch diesen Prozess aufgerüttelt und besser informiert. Aber leider ist die Regierung von ehemaligen Elite-Schülern dominiert, die in ihrer eigenen Wolke leben und zu ihrer Wählerschaft keinen Bezug mehr haben. Das wahre Leben ist den Meisten von ihnen fremd.

Heute ist „Brexit“-Tag. Eigentlich. Und was bedeutet das für mich?

Seit über 13 Jahren lebe ich nun als Deutsche in Großbritannien, seit knapp 7 Jahren mit einem britischen Pass. Diesen hatte ich mir damals zugelegt, weil ich meine Zukunft hier sah, und als Steuerzahlerin wollte ich auch volles Wahlrecht haben. Und weil Deutschland einen Zweitpass neben dem deutschen problemlos erlaubt, solange es sich um einen EU-Pass handelt, habe ich auch gar nicht lange gezögert – höchstens die damit verbundenen, relativ hohen Kosten haben mich mal kurz zweifeln lassen, ob es sich überhaupt lohnt. „Ich bin doch eh EU-Bürgerin, und somit ist so ein britischer Pass doch eigentlich gar nicht nötig. Ein ziemlich teuer erkauftes Wahlrecht, aber mehr eben nicht“ – so dachte man noch damals. Und damals ist gerade mal 7 Jahre her.

Ich hätte nicht gedacht, dass ich nur 4 Jahre später heilfroh sein würde, dass ich mir um Aufenthaltsstatus, Arbeitserlaubnis und Gesundheitsversorgung als EU-Bürgerin keine Sorgen wuerde machen müssen. „Brexit“ hatte die Situation verändert und noch bis heute ist die Situation für viele meiner EU-Mitbürger unsicher.

Heute ist „Brexit“-Tag. Eigentlich. Und was bedeutet das für das Verlagswesen?

Seit ich in dieses Land gezogen bin, war ich im wissenschaftlichen Verlagswesen taetig – ich habe mit Bibliotheken weltweit gearbeitet, für und mit großen, kleinen und Kleinst-Verlagen, mit Organisationen rund ums Verlagswesen, Technologiefirmen und Non-for-Profit-Organisationen. Die meisten davon sind britisch und für sie hat der Brexit direkte Implikationen.

Vor allem im wissenschaftlichen Verlagswesen sind die Auswirkungen immens. Durch die immer wachsende Globalisierung von Wissenschaft beschränken sich Autoren und Leserschaft nicht auf den englischsprachigen Markt, sondern sind international. Natürlich spielt die EU hier eine große Rolle: nicht nur in Bezug zu Kundenbeziehung – die Unklarheiten über Handelsabkommen, Verzollung, Mehrwertsteuer etc. bremsen den Vertrieb und die mit dem Brexit einhergehenden Schwächung des britischen Pfundes bedeutet direkte Umsatzverluste – aber auch, und vor allem in Bezug zu Autoren. Ein Großteil des wissenschaftlichen Publizierens basiert auf Forschung; Forschung, die zu großen Teilen von EU-Geldern gefördert wird. Für britische Wissenschaftler ist es bereits seit dem Referendum 2016 schwerer geworden, an internationalen Projekten teilzunehmen, da ihre Finanzierung unklar war und ist. Die britische Regierung stellt nicht annähernd genug Geld zur Verfügung, um dieses Finanzloch in Zukunft zu stopfen. Inwiefern europäische Wissenschaftler in einem Nach-Brexit Großbritannien werden leben und arbeiten können, ist ebenso unklar.
Copyright-Direktiven finden auf EU-Basis statt – keiner weiss, in wie weit die erst in dieser Woche verabschiedete EU-Urheberrechtsreform in Großbritannien greifen wird. Von einer internationalen Kooperation bei der Durchsetzung von geistigem Eigentumsrechten außerhalb der EU ganz zu schweigen.
Die EU setzt Richtlinien – sei es im Bereich von Open Access (Plan S), der Angleichung von Mehrwertsteuern für digitale Bücher und Zeitschriften, oder den internationalen Markt von Online-Gütern und Datentransfer. Wenn dieses Land kein Teil der EU mehr ist, stehen alle diese Themen in den Sternen und die Unsicherheit, wie es in diesen Bereichen weiter gehen wird, ist in den Verlagen deutlich zu spüren.

Heute sollten wir aus der EU austreten, hieß es. Nun also doch nicht.

Zumindest nicht heute. Vielleicht in zwei Wochen, vielleicht in zwei Monaten, vielleicht in zwei Jahren. Vielleicht auch nie.

Die unsägliche Art und Weise, mit der die hiesige Regierung das Thema behandelt, lässt mich sprachlos. Selten hat das Wort „Fremdschämen“ eine bessere Anwendung gefunden; und ich bin dankbar, dass ich noch diese andere – nicht-britische – Identität habe. Und dennoch lebe ich gerne in diesem Land, das ich seit 13 Jahren mein Zuhause nenne. Deutschland ist mir in dieser Zeit fremd geworden – und ist mir doch so nah.

Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf