What influence has AI on the book publishing industry?

Welche Bedeutung hat das Buch im Zeitalter von KI?

Generative AI is currently one of the most extensively discussed topics in the book industry. New books on AI emerge weekly, and despite the profound fascination with the subject, there is a notable sense of respect for the disruptive technology that has the potential to reshape the book market.

In this article, we take a look at the key trends that AI offers for the book market:

  • In the age of AI, the human note in literature is becoming increasingly important.
  • AI is set to assist authors comprehensively throughout the writing process.
  • Leveraging AI enables us to better respond to the individual needs of book customers.

Between Poly-Crisis and Technological Upheaval: The Strain on the German Book Market

The German book market is confronting a multitude of challenges: Still not fully recovered from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown of bookstores, the industry faces another setback with the ongoing global crises such as the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. The resulting increase in paper and energy costs poses a significant challenge for the already margin-sensitive book market, which struggles to offset these costs through price hikes. Consequently, the number of book buyers is on a downward trend: While in 2012, 36.9 million Germans purchased at least one book per year, by 2022, this number had decreased to 25.8 million.

Traditional bookstores, especially small bookstores, are struggling  to withstand this pressure. Over the past decade almost 9000 jobs in the German traditional bookstore industry have been eliminated, and governmental support in the form of a promised structural publishing subsidy was cut by the German government at the beginning of 2024 due to budget constraints. In summary, the German book market is under tremendous pressure.

Amidst this tense situation, the bombshell “ChatGPT” struck at the end of 2022. OpenAI itself declared the field of bookkeeping as one of the professional domains where individuals can most easily be replaced by generative artificial intelligence. According to their assessment, at least half of the tasks in bookkeeping could be completed much more quickly with GPT models.

Will artificial intelligence write our books in the future?

Similar to book traders, journalists and writers are already partially replaceable by Large Language Models, according to OpenAI. This development is causing unrest in the industry. In summer 2023, over 8,000 writers in the United States signed an open letter against the free use of their works for the development of artificial intelligence. The German “Network für Autorenrechte” also demands a “citizen- and culture-friendly AI regulation” in an open letter to the federal government.

Is the fear of being replaced by AI reasonable? At the moment, AI tools can already assist authors in research, manuscript creation, and draft writing. Further, AI is used for editorial and proofreading tasks. There are even tools that support the entire book production process.

Nevertheless, artificial intelligence encounters limitations when it comes to interpreting complex human emotions, creative nuances, and subtle contexts that are essential for authentic literary works. Furthermore, it lacks a deep understanding of cultural, historical, and personal backgrounds. This does not change the fact that the self-publishing market on Amazon is currently flooded with AI-generated books. However, the question arises as to who reads such books.

The trend indicates a significant increase in interest in AI-written books among younger generations. However, for most people, reading books is still about experiencing stories and knowledge from real individuals. And therein lies the key to success in the era of AI in the book market. The rise of AI undoubtedly means increased competition for authors. It is, therefore, essential to view the book as part of a holistic concept, transform the person behind it into a brand, and understand how and where potential readers need to be engaged. The good news is: AI can assist us in this endeavor.

AI is much more than “just” a writer: The megatrend towards personalization offers an opportunity for the book industry.

In an oversaturated market, it is more crucial than ever to address the individual needs of the target audience. As people are going to bookshops less frequently, it is essential to reach them where they prefer to spend their time: on the digital networks. The platform TikTok has gained significant relevance in the book industry in recent years. On “Booktok,” especially individuals under 30 are encouraged to purchase books, significantly impacting publishers’ sales figures. That is why Booktok now even has its own bestseller list.

Publishers, bookstores, and authors aiming to reach a younger audience can no longer neglect the relevance of social media activities. In this realm, various AI tools can provide significant added value in terms of trend analysis, content production, and performance measurement.

Furthermore, in 2024, the concept of a book should no longer be confined to paper pages. Reading must be convenient, practical, and above all, digitally accessible. The revenue from e-books in Germany has increased more than tenfold since 2010, and the sales of digital audiobooks have nearly quintupled in the past ten years. Here too, AI can lend a helping hand to publishers and authors: e-book generators, text-to-speech tools, and post-production applications can substantially reduce production costs.

Artificial Intelligence also holds considerable potential for the book industry in individual purchasing advice, personalized advertising, and the generation of newsletter content.

Conclusion: The strategic implementation of AI is a competitive advantage in a precarious industry.

In summary, the German book market is at a crossroads where it will be determined who overcomes economic challenges with the help of digital formats and new technologies and who gets left behind. Adaptability, reaching new target audiences, and utilizing digital distribution channels are crucial to surviving and thriving in this dynamic landscape.

AI should not be perceived as a threat but rather as a useful tool. Humans and AI will collaborate in the future to create books. While human emotions will always be at the center of literature, AI can assist us in writing texts better and faster, understanding the needs of readers, and serving them with a holistic approach.


Eva Christiansen

Eva Christiansen works as an Editor and Consultant within the Executive Advisory team at hy, where she manages the publication of business books for our clients. Additionally, she supports the EA team as an editor on numerous projects in the fields of communication and thought leadership. Before joining hy, Eva gained extensive journalistic experience. Among other positions, she worked as a junior producer in Kuala Lumpur and Berlin producing short-formdocumentaries for the TV shows Galileo and Abenteuer Leben. As an editorial assistant at dpa, she helped managing daily news coverage. Most recently, as Lead Content Strategist, Eva played a pivotal role in building a start-up in the field of personal branding. Eva studied journalism and corporate communications in her bachelor's degree, followed by a double master's program in global mass communication and journalism at University of Leipzig and Ohio University.