Global E-book Report highlights unequal markets

Global E-book Report highlights unequal markets

International e-book markets continue to develop at different rates, with growth in some continental digital marketplaces appearing to have stalled despite increasing activity from global tech companies and local players.

However, the newly released 2015 Global E-book Report also notes that even within markets that have been slow to adopt there have been pockets of success, with anecdotal reports of blockbuster fiction or romance e-books accounting for between 30% to 40% of sales in countries such as Germany or France. The report points to self-publishing, subscription services, and mobile as likely catalysts for further growth, but warns that local nuances, reader resistance, and regulations might stymie activity in the future.

The 2015 report, compiled by Ruediger Wischenbart, shows that while both the US and UK have seen robust e-book growth for a numbers of years, leading to digital as a proportion of overall trade sales at about 30%, in mature book markets in non-English speaking countries the rate of progress has been much slower, and in some cases non-existent. As the report notes, in these non-English speaking countries (including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden), the market share of e-books within the trade segment of the book market is below 10%, ranging from as little as 1% in France, to 4.3% in Germany and 4.7% in the Netherlands. However, the report also highlights the unevenness of adoption, noting that in the fiction sectors in Germany and Holland digital sales are said to be at 10% of the overall amount sold.

The report concludes: “The evolution of e-books in non-English language European book markets is highly diverse both in terms of market penetration, and by showing significant differences in policy debates, expectations by various stakeholders, and overall market contexts. In some countries like Germany, e-books have become a standard feature, at first appreciated by strong readers and by consumers of genre fiction, and with Amazon shaping that process as the market leader. In others, notably in France, both publishers and consumers seem not just to largely resist the emergence of e-books as a new market segment, but to see a French cultural specific trait in their skeptical approach. In Scandinavia, e-books had started initially through libraries, not online retail, while most recently, streaming platforms offering subscriptions at a flat fee seem to define largely how ebooks build a dedicated audience. In the smaller markets of Central and Eastern Europe, digital editions of domestic trade titles are confronting another set of specific barriers of entry. This includes the comparably high cost of investment required upfront, which makes it even harder to break even in a small market. Moreover, notably the well educated and more affluent readers throughout the region seem to embrace e-books in a foreign language, notably in English, before or instead of picking up the local offer.”

The report also notes that even at such low levels of penetration in these market, “growth is showing signs of flattening out”. The report dismisses the early growth projections around e-books “to be more of a fancy of marketeers, than a reality”, but adds that “an industry level, the transformation goes much deeper than what the few percent of e-book revenues might symbolise”.

The full report is available from priced at €15.