News

Digital sales 'worth 25% of market by 2015'

Between 15% and 20% of the book reading public will own electronic devices and up to 25% of books will be sold in digital form by 2015, according to a new French study.

The study showed that multimedia tablets such as iPad should account for between two-thirds and three-quarters of total sales and ereaders such as Kindle the remaining third to a quarter.

The study was conducted among 3,000 people in six countries—France, Germany, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States and carried out by management consultants Bain & Company. The findings were revealed at the weekend during the third cultural forum in Avignon.

The switch to digital will be more rapid in Korea and the United States, where ebooks now represent about 5% of the market, and will be slower in countries like France, where the network of different types of retailers selling physical books remains extensive, said the report’s authors, Patrick Béhar and Laurent Colombani.

They are cautiously optimistic about the book industry’s future. "Books should not suffer from the same catastrophic scenario that the music industry did," they said. Apart from helping revive interest in reading - more than 40% of device owners say they read more than before - the shift to electronic is occurring through online sales for books, whereas it occurred through piracy for music. Electronic and print should continue to coexist for some time, as 41% of respondents said they remained attached to paper.

The electronic sector could represent between 20% and 28% of book industry profits in the future, the report said. But the industry will not benefit financially unless it innovates in its operating methods and content. "Experimenting with new formats - non-linear, hybrid, interactive or social - is where opportunity lies," it concluded.

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And the rest...more like 75% !

I do not expect the 41% who still like paper to remain constant. As electronic reading gains traction more of the old school will be exposed to the benefits of electronic editions and switch. There will be some, of course, who never change, at least until the costs of a printed edition gets too high to afford.

It appears clear to me that as reading shifts to electronics, the cost of publishing paper editions will rise, since there will be fewer copies sold over the years and fewer books to absorb printing costs.

This sounds thoroughly plausible.

But, although print and digital will co-exist, Bain's broad-brush assessment cannot predict the impact on market sectors.

If the majority of tablet/ereader users are affluent/educated, then the impact on "serious" publishing will be far more profound than if the impact were spread squarely across all book users.

This scenario would see print publishing concentrated more on the mass-market, with supermarkets increasing their share of the print market, and specialist physical retailers seeing their business fall dramatically. Tight margins and high occupancy costs would force the closure of many bookstores.

If - alternatively - the majority of tablet users are casual readers, whose primary use for their tablet is visual entertainment, games, work, communication - with reading "books" some long way down the list, then the impact of the switch from print to digital will be more broadly based, and bookstores and serious physical publishing might survive for a little longer.

Ultimately I believe we are talking horses vs cars (the one usurped by the other, with the old mode becoming a rich person's hobby), rather than radio vs TV (the one finding accoomodation alongside the other). I imagine that scenario planning in the publishing houses must entail multiple what-ifs.

I'd be interested to hear other, considered views. But this change will be fundamental, regardless of how much any individual loves their printed books at present (and I am one of them, I don't have an ereader and don't desire one - but I know I'll end up with one in the next 2-3 years).

As an aside, there is some volatility in these predictions. Victoria Barnsley was quoted in the bookseller in January saying that it would be 50% by 2020:

"I think 50% of books will be read online by 2020."

Source: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/108938-book-business-faces-tectonic-sh...

which she revised to 2015 at Frankfurt this year:

"Barnsley suggested that the UK market would follow the US experience (Harper, she said, had budgeted for 3% this year), and predicted that the proportion of ebooks could well reach 50% within five years."

Source: http://www.futurebook.net/content/view-frankfurt-who-controls-ebook-busi...

What is also interesting is the percentage of digital sales that will lead to a catastrophic "tipping point" in the publishing ecosystem: the collapse of a pluralistic retail environment, a viable print industry etc. I believe BISG in the USA is doing some research on this at the moment and the figure is 15-20%.

I think this is one of the more "adult" predictions I have rad. Far too many folks get in a lather about ebooks.

The first percentages are the easy ones - the early adopters, the voracious readers, the folks with cash lying about to buy the expensive first reader, and then follow the upgrades.

As for the ereviews advocate, keep in mind that printed books can still do things that ebooks cannot, just as ebooks have unique aspects as well. Also, print and ebook prices may not vary for many titles, as the number of readers will remain small regardless of the format. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily by Cambridge press strangely has far fewer readers than the Twilight series. Its ebook price is quite close to its paperback price as a result. And, if the prices for the two formats are similar, I think you'll see readers making choices that go against trends.

Bystander - I fear you have your scenario backwards. Just because folks are affluent does not necessarily mean they read more books, or more serious ones. They may read more, say articles for work or information, but books are a different bunch of illegally caught blue tuna. Those who read the most usually read for entertainment, and prefer the information over the format, I think ebooks will impact popular trade publishing the most, esp. in genre fiction and adult fiction bestsellers, and the softcover format more than the hardcover. As a bookseller I still do a brisk trade in $60+ history titles from university presses, and I specialize in medieval and ancient history.

I remember people telling me I was stupid for owning a mobile phone? "You don't NEED one," they told me. "Why would you want people to be able to call you all hours of the day," they jibed. "What's wrong with a landline?" they asked.

They all own mobile phones now.

I think this xmas could be a turning point, if companies like Amazon or Apple drop the prices of their machines a little. Once they reach a price almost anyone can afford - like an ipod - I think eBooks will take over as the standard way to read a book.

M. G. Scarsbrook
Author of The Marlowe Conspiracy: A Novel
Website: www.mgscarsbrook.com

Digital Sales offers probably the best range and the most competitively priced official viewing cards. It uses fully qualified fitters who are fully accredited and have a vast knowledge of the systems.

marketing solutions

And the rest...more like 75% !

I do not expect the 41% who still like paper to remain constant. As electronic reading gains traction more of the old school will be exposed to the benefits of electronic editions and switch. There will be some, of course, who never change, at least until the costs of a printed edition gets too high to afford.

It appears clear to me that as reading shifts to electronics, the cost of publishing paper editions will rise, since there will be fewer copies sold over the years and fewer books to absorb printing costs.

This sounds thoroughly plausible.

But, although print and digital will co-exist, Bain's broad-brush assessment cannot predict the impact on market sectors.

If the majority of tablet/ereader users are affluent/educated, then the impact on "serious" publishing will be far more profound than if the impact were spread squarely across all book users.

This scenario would see print publishing concentrated more on the mass-market, with supermarkets increasing their share of the print market, and specialist physical retailers seeing their business fall dramatically. Tight margins and high occupancy costs would force the closure of many bookstores.

If - alternatively - the majority of tablet users are casual readers, whose primary use for their tablet is visual entertainment, games, work, communication - with reading "books" some long way down the list, then the impact of the switch from print to digital will be more broadly based, and bookstores and serious physical publishing might survive for a little longer.

Ultimately I believe we are talking horses vs cars (the one usurped by the other, with the old mode becoming a rich person's hobby), rather than radio vs TV (the one finding accoomodation alongside the other). I imagine that scenario planning in the publishing houses must entail multiple what-ifs.

I'd be interested to hear other, considered views. But this change will be fundamental, regardless of how much any individual loves their printed books at present (and I am one of them, I don't have an ereader and don't desire one - but I know I'll end up with one in the next 2-3 years).

As an aside, there is some volatility in these predictions. Victoria Barnsley was quoted in the bookseller in January saying that it would be 50% by 2020:

"I think 50% of books will be read online by 2020."

Source: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/108938-book-business-faces-tectonic-sh...

which she revised to 2015 at Frankfurt this year:

"Barnsley suggested that the UK market would follow the US experience (Harper, she said, had budgeted for 3% this year), and predicted that the proportion of ebooks could well reach 50% within five years."

Source: http://www.futurebook.net/content/view-frankfurt-who-controls-ebook-busi...

What is also interesting is the percentage of digital sales that will lead to a catastrophic "tipping point" in the publishing ecosystem: the collapse of a pluralistic retail environment, a viable print industry etc. I believe BISG in the USA is doing some research on this at the moment and the figure is 15-20%.

I think this is one of the more "adult" predictions I have rad. Far too many folks get in a lather about ebooks.

The first percentages are the easy ones - the early adopters, the voracious readers, the folks with cash lying about to buy the expensive first reader, and then follow the upgrades.

As for the ereviews advocate, keep in mind that printed books can still do things that ebooks cannot, just as ebooks have unique aspects as well. Also, print and ebook prices may not vary for many titles, as the number of readers will remain small regardless of the format. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily by Cambridge press strangely has far fewer readers than the Twilight series. Its ebook price is quite close to its paperback price as a result. And, if the prices for the two formats are similar, I think you'll see readers making choices that go against trends.

Bystander - I fear you have your scenario backwards. Just because folks are affluent does not necessarily mean they read more books, or more serious ones. They may read more, say articles for work or information, but books are a different bunch of illegally caught blue tuna. Those who read the most usually read for entertainment, and prefer the information over the format, I think ebooks will impact popular trade publishing the most, esp. in genre fiction and adult fiction bestsellers, and the softcover format more than the hardcover. As a bookseller I still do a brisk trade in $60+ history titles from university presses, and I specialize in medieval and ancient history.

I remember people telling me I was stupid for owning a mobile phone? "You don't NEED one," they told me. "Why would you want people to be able to call you all hours of the day," they jibed. "What's wrong with a landline?" they asked.

They all own mobile phones now.

I think this xmas could be a turning point, if companies like Amazon or Apple drop the prices of their machines a little. Once they reach a price almost anyone can afford - like an ipod - I think eBooks will take over as the standard way to read a book.

M. G. Scarsbrook
Author of The Marlowe Conspiracy: A Novel
Website: www.mgscarsbrook.com

Digital Sales offers probably the best range and the most competitively priced official viewing cards. It uses fully qualified fitters who are fully accredited and have a vast knowledge of the systems.

marketing solutions