The book industry is still riven on digital issues include pricing, royalties and rights, this year’s FutureBook Digital Census reveals.
The census has been completed by 2,375 people with professional links to the industry and the full report will be published in early December.
The poll reveals deep divisions on the issue of e-book pricing in particular. Just over a third (36.3%) of Census respondents think e-books should sell for slightly less than their print equivalents, and just over a quarter (27.2%) for significantly less. A similar number think e-book costs should be pegged close to either the RRP (12.5%) or "street" price (17.9%) of the print version. Only a tiny number (0.7%) think e-books should be priced higher than print, and the rest advocate more sophisticated scales of pricing.
FutureBook’s Census is now in its fourth year, and the figures show opinions on pricing have changed little since 2010. It suggests that views are now firmly entrenched, and that consensus remains a long way off.
The confusion is prompting many publishers to roadtest a host of different approaches to pricing and promotions. Well over half (60.7%) of all publishers say they have experimented on price to boost sales—but even more (69.5%) admit to worrying that e-book prices are currently too low.
There is scant agreement on royalties also. Just over half (53.4%) of publishers think rates should be the same for e-books as for print versions, but just under a third (30.2%) think they should be higher, and the rest (16.4%) either lower or on a more variable scale.
Rights are divisive too. Just over half (56.4%) think digital growth will break down territorial rights because they will be unenforceable—but the rest (43.6%) believe they can be maintained.
On a fourth thorny issue, at least—e-book loans—there is slightly more agreement. Just under three quarters (72.4%) of publishers now think libraries should be able to loan e-books, with more than half of the rest (17.3%) still not sure and the remainder (10.3%) against the idea.