One of the biggest success stories in U.S. publishing in recent years has been the continued growth of digital book publishing. Last year, total revenue for e-book sales in the United States reached $3.04 billion, a 44.2% increase on 2011′s numbers and a figure all the more impressive when you realize that growth is additive to the print publishing industry. Even more surprising,
publishers have focused much of their attention on genres like sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and romance fiction – markets that have traditionally lagged behind “literary fiction” in terms of sales.
In the last few months, however, Random House and Harper Collins launched their first digital-only imprints, and all of them focused on genre fiction. Random House announced the sci-fi/fantasy line Hydra, mystery line Alibi, “new adult”-targeted Flirt and romance-centric Loveswept, while Harper Collins created the digital mystery imprint Witness in April. Although this focus on genre fiction might seem counter-intuitive according to traditional print publishing sales, Random House VP and digital publishing director Allison Dobson says there’s a simple reason for it: The digital audience wants different things.
“Certain categories [of eBooks] have a much larger digital adoption than others,” Dobson said. “The genres were among the first where readers took to the digital format and the ratio of readers of digital, as opposed to physical, are much, much higher.” In the case of some genre titles, as much as 60 to 70 percent of the sales are digital. “I think there is an enormous audience in digital right now,” Dobson said. “It’s actually where the action is.”
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But the digital delivery system also offers immediacy and ease of access for material that often is serialized and written to make you want to know what happens next, as soon as possible. Liate Stehlik, senior vice president and publisher at Harper Collins, subscribes to that idea, at least partially. Genre fans, she says, became “early adopters” of the digital format because e-books are the optimal format “for people who want to read a lot of books, quickly and frequently. Digital has replaced the paperback, certainly the paperback originals. I think the audience that gravitated to eBooks first really was that voracious reader, reading for entertainment, reading multiple books in a month across multiple genres.”
Link to the rest at Wired and thanks to Abel for the tip.