Digital to dominate by 2020

More than half of people working in the industry think sales of e-books will overtake those of their printed counterparts by the end of this decade.

That is among the early findings from The Digital Census 2011, The Bookseller’s annual survey of digital trends and opinions. Responses are still being collected, but provisional figures from the survey show around a quarter (25.8%) forecast that a ‘tipping point’ of sales from print to digital will occur between 2015 and 2019, with smaller numbers predicting it will happen in 2012 (4.9%), 2013 (8.6%) or 2014 (16.4%). The balance of sales will tip sooner in the US but later in other regions of the world, survey respondents suggested.

The last year has seen many publishers reporting sharp rises in their digital sales, but The Bookseller’s survey indicates the revolution is only just beginning. It found that digital formats currently account for less than 3% of total sales at nearly a third (32.5%) of all publishers—but a similar proportion (32.1%) suggest they will account for more than 50% of their sales by 2020. More than nine in ten (92.7%) publishers now sell content digitally, with e-books and apps the two most common formats.

The survey also revealed optimism that the digital shift will be good for the industry as a whole, with two thirds (67.6%) of all respondents thinking it will grow the overall books market and only one in eight (13.1%) suggesting it will shrink it.

Full findings from The Bookseller’s Digital Census 2011 will be revealed in a special report and at this year’s FutureBook conference on 5th December. There is still time to join the nearly 2,000 people who have already completed the survey, which can be found here.