Bookseller Survey: Cheaper e-books needed to drive digital growth

<p>Cheaper e-books and the emergence of an Apple e-reader will be the main factors in driving digital publishing forward, according to a landmark survey of more than 1,000 book trade professionals conducted ahead of <em>The Bookseller&#39;s</em> Digital Conference &quot;Futur<em>e</em>Book&quot; being held today (2nd December) in London, sponsored by Wiggin.</p><p>The survey also found that more than 88% of respondents thought bookshops would lose out from the growth in digital sales, while 55% said they did not support the revised Google Settlement.</p><p>The results also shed more light on the problems publishers face pricing e-books. The results showed that though 44% of respondents had read a book digitally, only 19% had bought one. The majority of respondents said that e-books should be priced at the same cost as a paperback book (30.1%), or cheaper (53.6%).</p><p>At the moment publishers price e-books at the same price as the prevalent print edition, but this was seen by respondents as a hindrance to the growth of digital book sales. &quot;The high price of e-books is the main obstacle to their takeup,&quot; said one respondent. &quot;Readers can&#39;t understand why the online versions of bricks and mortar shops sell ebooks at higher than paperback prices.&quot;<br /><br />But there was also concern that low priced e-books could devalue other editions. E-books &quot;must not be underpriced thus devaluing the &#39;book&#39; as a product irrespective of mode of delivery&quot;, said one, while another respondent stressed that it was &quot;important not to devalue the work that has gone into writing, editing and formatting the content&quot;. One publisher summed up the dilemma: &quot;Obviously as a publisher I appreciate the huge backend costs for producing digital product however as a customer I would want to pay less - we do when we download an album.&quot;<br /><br />Many respondents believed that the publishing industry would undergo huge changes with the emergence of new digital products. Over 67% of the 1,080 respondents who completed the survey said that book trade professionals should re-skill to take advantage of digital media.</p><p>High street bookshops have most to lose from the increased use of digital content with 88% believing this sector would be most hit. However, despite the gloomy prediction, many said that there need not be any losers. &quot;Everyone will gain by making reading easier and more accessible - and by widening the appeal to younger people (i.e. mobile audiences). High street bookshops need to become service providers for readers - technology, some printed books (e.g. children&#39;s books, maps, art books), advice, author readings, seminars, learning centres, event hosts, etc.&quot;</p><p>Another said: &quot;Those who embrace it and move forward making their content easy to access digitally and stop focusing on the bottom line [will gain].&quot; But not all were prepared to see a positive side from the rise of digital: &quot;Content will suffer greatly but there will be a greater spread of content accessible to a greater number of book buyers. Everything will get a little closer to pulp content but there will be a lot more pulp content consumers.&quot;</p><p>Almost 70% of those surveyed said that interoperable e-book formats and devices would be key to the growth of digital publishing. Despite the emergence of mobile phone apps, 42% said that most people would read e-books on a dedicated e-reader in the future. Apple was named as the company which would come out &#39;top&#39; in the e-reader wars with support from 52% despite not even having a dedicated e-reader out on the market as yet: Amazon was a close second, with Sony a distant third.<br /><br />The new Google Settlement continues to prove controversial with 55% of respondents saying they did not support the revised Settlement, though 58% thought this version would be approved anyway by the US court.</p><p>The majority of respondents said that less than 10% of current sales were from e-books (47%). But by 2025 16% said that more than 51% of sales would be from digital content, whereas just 5% said the electronic market would be less than 10% of total sales.<br /><br />Over 50% of the survey responses came from publishers with the remainder coming from booksellers, librarians, agents and authors.</p><p><a href="http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23digconf" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23digconf">The conference can be followed live on Twitter today</a>. </p>