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German Catholic church-owned Weltbild succumbs to online rivals

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January 12
8:25 PM 2014

Weltbild, a publisher owned by the Catholic Church in Germany, has fallen victim to online competition, the Financial Times reported. The increase in book sales through online rivals like Amazon was apparently too much for the publisher which started insolvency proceedings in an Augsburg court on Friday, January 10, 2013. The report said the move endangers over 6,000 jobs.

The owners of Weltbild include 12 Catholic dioceses and a church welfare organization dedicated to soldiers based in Berlin. FT reported that Weltbild has been plagued with various controversies as its owners contend with the challenges posted by publishing in today's world.

In 2011, Weltbild made headlines when it was reported that it was selling titles with pornographic themes which were not in line with the teachings and values of the Catholic Church. The controversy propelled the owners to say that Weltbild was on the auction block, although at that time, its chief executive said it could take around 18 months to get a buyer for the publishing house with the economic climate. However, a sale did not happen, the report said.

Weltbild got caught in another controversy in June last year after Icon Empire Press said that its titles would not anymore be carried by the German publishing house. The Canada-based publisher of gay material said the reason of Weltbild for denying their titles was that it was dedicated to traditional values, the report said.

Weltbild said business would continue while the insolvency proceedings are going on while it undertakes efforts to restructure its operations. The publisher said the proceedings would not affect its outlets, its Austrian and Swiss units and its website buecher.de. For the year ending June 2012, it posted close to €1.6 billion in sales, FT reported.

After Amazon, Weltbild is the biggest online book retailer in Germany. However, it said in September that temporary losses resulted from the substantial initial investments it made in its shift to online retail, FT reported.

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