Trade publishers say e-book sales will not reach 10% until 2012

Trade publishers say e-book sales will not reach 10% until 2012

A third of UK trade publishers think that over 10% of their total book revenue will come from e-books by 2012, according to new research released by Publishing Technology at BML’s annual Books & Consumers Conference.

The survey, which asked "hand-picked senior executives at top publishers" their views, showed that one in four UK academic publishers were already seeing 10% of their total book revenue coming from e-books in 2011, with double that predicting this would be the case in 2012.

The feedback from trade publishers suggests that e-book sales are growing more slowly than recent headlines have stated. In the US, e-book statistics for January have put digital sales at about a quarter of total sales—a figure backed by UK publisher Bloomsbury earlier this year and Hachette Livre c.e.o. Arnaud Nourry this week—while in the UK trade publishers have been privately revising their sales forecasts based on January and February figures. However, as the survey notes, expectations don't always turn into reality. In the 2001 survey, nearly half (46%) of publishers predicted that over 10% of their revenue would come from e-books by 2006; in fact, in 2011 only 10% say that this is the case.

Jane Tappuni, director of business development (Europe) at Publishing Technology, said: “If 2010 has been acknowledged as the year the e-book finally became a mass market reality, then it seems that 2012 will be the year e-books start making a significant impact on UK trade publishers' incomes. This is exciting as publishers have been investing huge amounts in digital publishing. I think we’ll increasingly see a divide between publishers who have embraced digital products and those that haven’t. These figures show that everyone needs to sit up and take notice to ensure that publishing houses are at the forefront of digital innovation.”

Jo Henry, m.d. of BML, said: "This research suggests that publishers 10 years ago were over-optimistic about the pace of change in some areas, whereas in others, growth has been almost as fast as predicted.”

The research also showed that 66% of all publishers surveyed thought e-books were not displacing sales in other formats, but could actually lead to an expansion of the overall market, up from 44% 10years ago, when the survey was last produced. The availability of more book titles is the best way to promote growth of e-books, according to over two-thirds of respondents, while 50% thought enhanced content will help boost e-book market in the next five years.

The survey collated data from 23 publishers, with 31 responses, with the interviews for the 2011 research conducted in February this year.