International Update: Australia's Booktopia Restructures; German Bookstore Chain Thalia 'Harnesses AI'

David Nenke

Australian online bookstore company Booktopia made a series of changes this week that point to a challenging future for the company. AAP (via the Sydney Morning Herald) reported that Booktopia's CEO David Nenke has resigned, effective immediately, following CFO Fiona Levens's resignation on May 15. Booktopia also said it was withdrawing its guidance issued in February that it would make between A$1 million (about US$667,500) and A$3 million (about US$2 million) in 2023-24.

In addition, at least 50 positions are being considered for layoffs at Booktopia's Rhodes headquarters in a bid to save A$6.1 million (about US$4.1 million) in 2024-25. To help pay for costs associated with the layoffs, the company has secured a A$1 million revolving debt facility with AFSG Capital at an 18% interest rate.

Economic headwinds and the continued soft performance of the Australian book market were cited by Booktopia as having affected its core business, selling physical books via websites and, AAP noted. 

As a cost-saving measure, Booktopia's directors have agreed to have their fees paid in the form of shares for the next six months, during which time chairman Peter George will assume the role of executive chairman.

"The sustained volatility of the economic climate, in addition to changing consumer spending behaviors, have continued to contribute to business results that have been below our expectations," George said. 


German bookstore chain Thalia plans to integrate an AI tool into its e-commerce website, "with the aim of aiding business growth and improving product discovery for customers," the Bookseller reported. Thalia operates more than 500 bookshops in German-speaking countries, with 6,500 employees and a significant digital presence comprising its website and app. 

During the next three years, the chain plans to double its marketplace from 20 million items to 40 million items. To achieve this goal, the company is partnering with the AI platform Coveo, with the aim of "improving product discovery, delivering more personalized book recommendations and reducing manual site maintenance." Thalia's new AI-powered website will be rolled out later this year.

"Coveo is exactly the right partner for us. With their decade of AI experience, AI search and recommendations, and strength in security, Coveo is the best option to effectively support our strong growth targets in the digital sector," said Thalia chief customer officer Roland Kölbl.


Children in the U.K. and Ireland are reading fewer books than they did last year "as post-Covid absences from school and a lack of dedicated reading time contribute to lower reading abilities," the Guardian reported. This is the first year there has been a decline in the number of books read since the research began in 2008, excepting the first year of the Covid pandemic.

The 2024 What Kids Are Reading Report, which surveyed more than 1.2 million pupils, revealed a 4.4% decrease in the number of books read by pupils. According to the study, the decline in reading is "particularly acute" in secondary schools, and affects the difficulty of books being read as well as the volume. The respondents read progressively more challenging books until year six, after which the difficulty level of books being read tended to plateau until year nine, before a "sharp drop" in the difficulty of those read by older secondary students.

"The key takeaway from this report is that more reading practice at an appropriate level of difficulty improves pupils' reading performance, with more reading time in school leading to higher reading attainment," said University of Dundee's Keith Topping. "There are a number of possible reasons for the decline, but the high number of pupils persistently absent from school post-Covid is likely to be the biggest factor." --Robert Gray

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