European publishers are becoming less resistant to the "digitisation tsunami" as local distribution networks are built and publishers await the arrival of global players such as Amazon, Apple and Google in their territories.
According to a new report looking into the global e-book market published by O'Reilly Media ahead of its Frankfurt Tools of Change conference being held on Tuesday (11th October), although e-book sales outside of the US and UK remain small—"at best" just 1% of total sales—"significant momentum" is now building up.
The report said that it could imagine double digit market shares for e-books for 2015 in most European markets, but it warned that "hurdles and fragmentations" could arise, most notably from local tax and price-fixing laws, but also from the fact that distributors are as of yet uninterested in serving smaller or more complex new markets.
Further afield in China and Brazil, distinct local factors may alter the way the markets develop digitally. In China, mobile is the preferred platform, while "online literature”, often as a serialised stream of content, provides a channel for the dissemination of bookish content well apart from the traditional format of the "book”. In Brazil, educational content may become the main driver for digital.
The analysis put the market share of e-books in both the US and UK at 6%, though higher in certain genres, with France (1.8%), the Netherlands, (1.2%) Germany (1%) and Spain (1%) the next biggest e-book markets.
The report argued that the different characteristics of individual markets "will not only affect each market's e-book evolution but will also frame the interplay of domestic and global factors as they encourage either globalising or more differentiating forces". There could also be "cultural resistance" with printed books perceived as a "strong symbol of resistance, rooted in a genuine European tradition of Enlightenment", though it argued that these cultural elites may not represent actual readers, who could adopt to digital reading quickly.
Publishers, at least, were now moving onto the front foot. The report reckoned: "Until 2010, the efforts of the book industry representatives were aimed primarily at containing as much as possible the American e-book and digitisation tsunami from spilling over all too rapidly into major European book markets. During the second half of 2010—and even more so in 2011—as domestic infrastructure for handling e-books were set up, with European retailers betting more and more on e-books (such as Fnac, Thalia, Weltbild), and with Amazon's opening of a German Kindle shop in April 2011, the defensive measures were ripe for abandonment and replacement by policies implemented to embrace the new digital world."
The whitepaper The Global eBook Market: Current Conditions & Future Projections is being made available today (Monday, 10th October) from 10 a.m. GMT, here.
Delegates at Publishers Launch Frankfurt this morning also debated e-book pricing, with Riccardo Cavallero, chief executive of Italian publisher Mondadori, stressing that agents need to be less "conservative".