Academic publishers seeing strong growth from e-book sales

<p>Nearly 90% of commmercial academic publishers have seen growth in e-book sales over the past two years, according to a cross-sector survey released today (10th March) by the Association of Learned Professional and Scholarly Publishers. Growth in some cases was more than 1,000%, with e-book sales now almost 10% of total book sales of the publishers surveyed.</p><p>The survey also found that nearly two-thirds of academic publishers are creating e-books. Some 62.3% of respondents to the survey, conducted last summer, already have e-book programmes in place, with only 17% saying there were no plans in the near future to start.</p><p>In total 68.6% of publishers have seen an increase in e-book revenue over the last two years. For those publishers with e-book programmes growth had been extraordinary, with one publisher recording e-book growth of 44,000%. Even without this figure included, publishers recorded growth in e-book sales of more than 200%, with commercial publishers seeing a rise of 345% and non-profit publishers growth of 108%.</p><p>While e-book sales still account for a relatively small amount of total book sales, the survey found that for commercial academic publishers they now represented almost 8% of business, while for non-profit publishers it was more than 10%. For &#39;very small&#39; publishers it was above 17%, while for &#39;large&#39; publishers it was close to 13% of book sales. Overall digital accounted for 9.4% of total book revenue, a three-fold increase on previous estimates. </p><p>Laura Cox, who co-authored the report, said she was &quot;surprised&quot; at the level of engagement with e-books, as there had been &quot;a real mixture&quot; of respondents, including small university presses and societies. She said: &quot;Even if they weren&#39;t doing it themselves, they were licensing it to aggregators. It showed that we&#39;re a little bit further alone the route to online books than perhaps we thought.&quot;</p><p>Prior to conducting the study, Cox said she would have estimated around 35-40% of publishers had taken the step towards digital books. &quot;It&#39;s a good sign that publishers are really thinking about e-books, and for the future, this is actually a route people want to go down,&quot; she said.</p><p>The survey found that academic publishers were also relatively unconcerned about the various challenges presented by the shift towards digital books. Although piracy was one of the biggest concerns, Cox said very few publishers thought of it as a serious problem.</p><p>Cox explained: &quot;Possibly, this is because a lot of academic publishers have journals, and haven&#39;t experienced very serious piracy issues with them in the past, so they are less afraid of putting their books online... Also, at the moment monographs and reference works are being primarily bought by libraries rather than individuals. As textbooks move online, and are sold direct to students, piracy and DRM will become more of an issue.&quot; She added that for trade publishers it was &quot;understandably&quot; more of a concern.</p><p>However, standard devices and formats presented a growing challenge. Although the study was conducted before Apple announced its iPad device, Cox said there was concern among publishers that they adapt to new devices to better &quot;use those opportunities to build online content&quot;, such as developing interactivity.</p><p>Scholarly Book Publishing Practice is the first ALPSP survey undertaken to establish current practices in scholarly book and e-book publishing, to provide detailed analysis and statistics in this growing market. The survey was conducted of 400 publishers, both commercial and non-profit, consisting of ALPSP and other major association members. A response rate of over 60% was achieved including most major academic book publishers.</p><p>A session on Scholarly Book Publishing Practice &ndash; the ALPSP survey findings will be presented at the forthcoming ALPSP seminar: The Future of Academic Book Publishing, on Thursday 18th March 2010. For more information, go to <a href="http://www.alpsp.org/ngen_public/default.asp?ID=201" target="_blank" title="http://www.alpsp.org/ngen_public/default.asp?ID=201">http://www.alpsp.or...