After only one year Germany's participation in international World Book Night celebrations has been put on hold, at least temporarily. Even though the initial event has been hailed a great success by the organisers, this year's campaign has nonetheless been quietly shelved.
An official statement by co-organiser Stiftung Lesen (Germany's Reading Foundation) side-stepped the issue by claiming that more time was needed to sort through the many proposals and suggestions to improve what the Germans call "Aktion Lesefreunde". However it is an open secret that funding for 2013 hasn't been secured.
One million specially printed paperbacks were given away by more than 40,000 people when the German WBN was launched on 23rd April 2012, the same date as WBNs in the UK and USA. The event was a joint initiative between Stiftung Lesen, the trade association Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, and individual publishers. More than 1,500 booksellers and 2,400 librarians acted as collecting points for the books. The German World Book Night was initiated by Joerg Pfuhl, c.e.o. of Stiftung Lesen and former c.e.o. of Verlagsgruppe Random House.
While the campaign had been widely welcomed by the media and libraries, the idea of giving away books for free didn't appeal to all booksellers. An unofficial poll by Buchreport showed 43% of booksellers in favour and 35% against. According to Stiftung Lesen's own poll, two out of three booksellers supported the initiative and nine out of ten would take part again.
Pfuhl was adamant that the campaign will return next year and said in the statement that talks with publishers and other sponsors are ongoing.
In the meantime the German book industry is eagerly awaiting its major spring event. The Börsenverein will use the Leipzig Book Fair to lift the curtain on its much heralded image campaign. Details have been kept strictly under wraps but the campaign has been in the making since early 2012 and will initially last over three years.
WBN chief executive Julia Kingsford said: "[WBN is] going ahead here and in Ireland and America, and obviously it is sad not to have Germany involved this year, but it is a difficult time economically for everyone and we have to respect their own situation.
"We are still talking to other prospective partners internationally and we are hopeful of additional partners for 2014, but the global economic outlook is complicated, particularly for the industry, and it doesn't necessarily lead to an easy funding situation for anyone."