E-book and print to jostle at Christmas

E-book and print to jostle at Christmas

Publishers are looking to reignite plateauing digital sales off the back of the new, cheaper devices hitting the market.

But some analysts are predicting that it will be physical, not digital, books that triumph this Christmas.

Tim Davies, m.d. of The History Press, said he expected e-books to grow again next year, but that a change of focus was necessary. "[The plateauing] has given us an opportunity to draw breath and think more strategically about our 2014 and 2015 e-book activity," he said. "It’s likely that we’ll ease off cranking the handle on conversion, and focus more on utilising social media and social media ‘listening post’ platforms to market our e-books."

Osprey Group c.e.o. Rebecca Smart said: "I don't think this has been a year of great change, more one of consolidation. There has been a move from product innovation, to thinking about how the business model can change—whether it's bundling or subscriptions, that will be the next phase."

Stephanie Duncan, digital media director at Bloomsbury, commented: "There has been a huge rise in Android devices—even Tesco is selling its own tablet now. All retailers have apps on Android, so there is huge potential there for publishers to make themselves seen. When the sales of these devices rise, content goes hand in hand." She added: "E-books still have a long way to go and we are still seeing growth, and we expect Christmas to play a part in that."

Nathan Hull, digital product development director at Penguin, said: "There is a distinct trend this Christmas coming in the form of 7-inch tablets, and our approach is to make our apps and other products available as widely as possible. We won't develop something for the iPad, then think about converting it to Android, we build them agnostically from the beginning. I think this quarter will see a change in the skew of the app market to mean things are less Apple-focused."

However, Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis predicted this year would see "a Christmas for physical books". He commented: "Books do well when household budgets are tight. The range of Christmas titles looks strong enough. We projected that digital book sales would grow rapidly but then start to plateau early, and we are seeing signs of that happening."

Elsewhere publishers said direct engagement with readers would be key over the festive season. Alison Ruane, associate publisher at HarperCollins Children's Books, with responsibility for digital marketing, said: "This year will see a big focus on speaking directly to consumers. We've known for a long time about the importance of building these direct relationships and finding out what motivates our readers, and we'll be seeing the benefits of those investments."

Hannah Telfer, director of digital marketing and new product development at Random House, said: "I think we're moving on in terms of thinking about new content and devices, and this year there is much more of a focus on engaging with audiences. We want to make sure we reach as many people as possible." She added: "After people have got their new devices on Christmas day, we have a fantastic opportunity to reach people and recommend our books. We'll be partnering with retailers to make sure customers know where the deals are."

Retailers are also making use of digital marketing to boost sales, with Blackwell's shortly launching a '"Tweets of kindness" campaign, which will give free books to deserving people on Twitter. Meanwhile The Works has expanded Christmas promotions on its website, offering an exclusive online deal of 10 children's books for £10.