Ebook/Ereader Growth

eBooks Could Finally Inch Past Print In 2018

24 November 2014

From TechCrunch:

PricewaterhouseCoopers analysts are predicting (again) that ebooks could soon edge out print as publishers’ most lucrative products. What does this mean? Essentially that a ebook popularity and pricing stabilizes, users will spend more on bits than they will on pulp. The resulting switch could be the final nail in the print coffin.

. . . .

The Digital Reader points out that PwC has been making this same prediction over and over again, year after year. Why? Because at some point they will be correct.

I honestly expected ebooks to overtake print in the US far sooner. The numbers still point to print surpassing ebooks with alarming regularity and print is still wildly popular in Europe. But this will change as cheaper ereaders become available but there is also a generational issue. Kids and older adults – audiences that bookend the book market – are still reading print books as the plethora of 50 Shades, Twilight, and Harry Potter titles at second-hand bookshops can attest. But as parents become more comfortable with leaving a tablet with the kids as they doze off I feel even the first of these hold-fasts can soon crumble. As for older adults this number is chipped away as grandparents and parents become familiar with their kids’ Kindles.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Ebook Publishing Gets More Difficult from Here – Here’s How to Succeed

20 November 2014

From Mark Coker via The Smashwords Blog:

First the good news.

For indie authors, there’s never been a better time to self-publish an ebook.  Thanks to an ever-growing global market for your ebooks, your books are couple clicks away from over one billion potential readers on smart phones, tablets and e-readers.

. . . .

Now the bad news. 

Everything gets more difficult from here. You face an uphill battle. With a couple exceptions – namely Scribd and Oyster – most major ebook retailers have suffered anemic or declining sales over the last 12-18 months.

The gravy train of exponential sales growth is over.  Indies have hit a brick wall and are scrambling to make sense of it.  In recent weeks, for example, I’ve heard a number of indie authors report that their sales at Amazon dropped significantly since July Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited (I might write about Kindle Unlimited in a future blog post).  Some authors are considering quitting.  It’s heartbreaking to hear this, but I’m not surprised either.  When authors hit hard times, sometimes the reasons to quit seem to outnumber the reasons to power on.  Often these voices come from friends and family who admire our authorship but question the financial sensibility of it all.

The writer’s life is not an easy one, especially when you’re measuring your success in dollars.  If you’re relying on your earnings to put food on your family’s table, a career as an indie author feels all the more precarious.

. . . .

1.  There’s a glut of high-quality ebooks

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing by self-publishing naysayers who criticize the indie ebook movement for causing the release of a “tsunami of drek” (actually, they use a more profane word than “drek”) that makes it difficult for readers to find the good books.  Yes, indie publishing is enabling a tsunami of poor-quality books, but critics who fixate on drek are blinded to the bigger picture. Drek quickly becomes invisible because readers ignore or reject it.  The other, more important side of this story is that self-publishing is unleashing a tsunami of high-quality works.  When you view drek in the broader context, you realize that drek is irrelevant.  In fact, drek is yin to quality’s yang.  You must have one to have the other.  Self-publishing platforms like Smashwords have transferred editorial curation from publishers to readers, and in the process has unleashed a greater quantity and diversity of high-quality content then ever possible before.

The biggest threat to every indie or traditionally-published author is the glut of high-quality low-cost works.  The quality and potency of your competition has increased dramatically thanks to self-publishing, and the competition will grow stiffer from this day forward.

Ten years ago, publishers artificially constrained book supply by publishing a limited number of new titles each year, and by agents and publishers rejecting nearly everything that came in through the slush pile. There was an artificial scarcity of books.  The supply was further constrained by the inability of physical brick and mortar bookstores to stock every title.  Even big box stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders could only stock a small fraction of the titles published by publishers each year, and as such they were forced to return slow-selling books to make room for new releases.

. . . .

3. The rate of transition from print books to ebooks is slowing

The early adopters for ebooks have adopted.  The exponential growth in ebook sales over the last six years was driven by a number of factors, most notably a rapid transition from print reading to ebook reading, and the success of ebook retailers such as Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble.  Today, ebooks probably account for between 30 to 35% of dollar sales for the US book market, with genre ebook fiction a bit higher and romance quite a bit higher.  Since ebooks are priced lower than print, the 30-35% statistic understates the amount of reading that has moved to screens.  Most likely (especially when you include free ebooks), screen reading in the ebook format probably accounts for around half or more of all book words read.  But the rate of transition from print to ebooks is slowing.  We’ve reached at state that might best be described as a temporary equilibrium.  I think reading will continue to transition to screens, but at a much slower rate of transition than during the last six years.  The slower rate of growth will therefore limit the number of new eyeballs available for the ever-growing supply of ebooks.

Link to the rest at The Smashwords Blog and thanks to Scath for the tip.

In Europe, Slower Growth for e-Books

18 November 2014

From The New York Times:

E-books have made impressive inroads into the English-reading world, but their success in Europe — even among wealthy, tech-savvy countries with robust publishing industries — remains spotty at best. In the United States and Britain, sales of e-books represent between a quarter and a third of the consumer book market and, by 2018, will edge out printed and audio books as the most lucrative segment, according to projections by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. But the picture is radically different in continental Europe. Last year, digital books made up 8 percent of the consumer book market in France, less than 4 percent in Germany and Italy, and 1 percent in Sweden and Norway.

. . . .

The reasons for Europe’s slow embrace of e-books vary from country to country, said Rüdiger Wischenbart, a publishing analyst based in Vienna who studies emerging e-book markets. In the case of Sweden, he said, e-books are popular, but are mostly lent out for free through the library system. In France and many other European countries, Mr. Wischenbart said, there is a cultural attachment to print that’s hard for readers and publishers to shake. “When you read a book, you define yourself as being part of a cultural elite, and that elite is very conservative,” he said. “They don’t want their high status to be undermined by some new gadget.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Vook continues ebook publishing consolidation with Coliloquy acquisition

15 November 2014

From TeleRead:

Ebook production and publishing platform Vook has continued its rollup of competitors and complementary ebook players with the acquisition of Coliloquy, the Palo Alto-based “digital publisher of enhanced and interactive ebooks and apps,” which has apparently specialized in interactive and rich media publications on the Kindle and other ebook platforms, currently boasting some 30 titles under its own imprint.

. . . .

Vook is not slow to put forward expansive claims for its own efforts, describing its acquisition of epublishing company Byliner, as “its first step in using technology to rebuild the publishing industry from the ground up – this time, putting authors first.” It was founded in 2009 by Bradley Inman, a West Coast serial entrepreneur with several internet companies in his resume prior to Vook, and appears to be following a classic aggregation strategy of consolidating other businesses around its own platform.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

PG says that, in all likelihood, the authors who had contracts with Coliloquy will now find that Vook owns those contracts.

Vook can be expected to enforce those contracts according to their written terms. Any promises that Coliloquy made to authors that are not included in the contracts will go out the window. At least some of the people who made those promises will probably not be working for Vook any more.

A common response to a request for making a contract change is something like, “We would never do that. That’s not the way we operate.” PG’s standard reply is something like, “Great. Let’s change the contract to fit how you do operate.”

One of the problems with life-of-the-copyright terms in a publishing contract, especially for younger authors, is that in future years all the people who attract an author to sign with a particular publisher will be dead, yet the contract will continue.

Many older authors who signed publishing contracts twenty or thirty years ago find that the publishers they signed with are long gone, sucked into a big media conglomerate, and the values which governed their old publishers have disappeared.

eBook Market Set to More Than Double to Top $16Bn By 2020

13 November 2014

From WBAY:

Strategy Analytics’ “Global eBooks Market Forecast 2001-2020″ predicts that the global consumer ebook market will more than double from $7Bn in 2013 to $16.7Bn in 2020, driven by more consumers accepting e-reading, more content made available through different business models, and the accelerating growth of emerging markets, especially China.

. . . .

“A clear trend in recent years has been the shift of e-reading from desktop computers to mobile, in particular to reading on smartphones and tablets.  At the same time, more readers are choosing multi-purpose tablets over dedicated e-readers as their primary ebook reading device,” said David MacQueen Executive Director, Apps and Media.  “All in all, we expect ebook reading penetration to increase from less than 10 percent of the total population in 2013 to close to 25 percent in 2020. China, the biggest smartphone market in the world, has just begun to see accelerated growth in the ebook market. We are seeing China join the traditionally big book markets in the US, Japan, Germany and the UK to form the ‘billion dollar club’ in 2020.”

“From the content perspective, more publishers are releasing books simultaneously in digital format and print format.  Meanwhile, an increasing number of new and established authors are opting for digital self-publishing only, made possible by ebook service platforms, which brings them closer to the readers.”

Link to the rest at WBAY

A digital consensus?

11 November 2014

From FutureBook:

What does the industry think of its digital future? Are we more or less confident? How do we read? Who do we buy from? When will sales of digital books overtake sales of print books? Who wins?

The Bookseller’s Digital Census is the annual tracker of how the book business is managing the shift to a digital future.

. . . .

So how are we doing? The big news is that there is increased confidence that publishing has a role in this digital future, with the slowdown in growth of (and expectations for) e-book sales allowing everyone to take a breather.

. . . .

Most worrying, only one in seven of our respondents think publishing is ready for whatever is around that virtual corner, and when asked if publishers are investing enough in finding out “what comes next” few were confident. “Not enough,” appears to have been a typical response, alongside its opposite: “The new business models are not at all clear—we don’t want to throw good money after bad.”

. . . .

Moreover, in a constantly shifting world one thing does remain unchallenged: the dominance of Amazon. Most of us buy our e-books from the Seattle giant, and it is the platform most used by self-published writers. While the shift to tablets and smartphones suggests that other booksellers may soon start nipping at its heels, this is only slowly happening. For the first time in five years, the iPad has usurped the Kindle as the favoured reading device for the digital literati—and yet Amazon is where we buy the content.

. . . .

As one respondent noted, publishers ought to worry less about becoming distributors and worry more about the books, and their authors. As the Digital Census’ author Tom Holman writes, “authors are rarely entirely satisfied with their publishers’ efforts to sell books—and the digital revolution seems to have cooled their enthusiasm further”. In short, self-published authors are more satisfied with their own self-publishing efforts—despite the comparatively low sales many of them have achieved to date—than traditionally published writers are with their own publishers’ efforts.

Despite their largely successful transition, publishers will feel that they cannot win—and it is sign of how much the ground has shifted that authors feel they have the options and knowledge to speak out. “I appreciate they’re in a difficult position, but I don’t think they’re nearly responsive or strategic enough,” said one writer. Of traditional publishing, another wrote that it was “exciting, enjoyable, frustrating and ultimately disappointing”. Ouch!

Link to the rest at FutureBook

Bookseller’s Digital Census predicts end to territoriality

6 November 2014

From The Bookseller:

Publishers are confident their digital sales will continue to increase, but at a slower rate than in the past, The Bookseller’s 2014 Digital Census has found. However, over three quarters of publishers think digital will lead to a collapse of territoriality and there continues to be concerns over the use of DRM and digital royalty rates.

. . . .

In the 2012 Digital Census, nearly half (48.2%) forecasted that digital would be worth more than 50% of their sales by the end of 2020; last year it was down to 41.3%; and this year it has dropped further, to less than a third (30.7%). Publishers still think digital is going to be a huge part of their future, but they are far less bullish than they were even a couple of years ago.

When asked if digital will compromise territorial rights, the vast majority (75.6%) answered yes. “E-books will ultimately kill territoriality,” said one respondent.

. . . .

“The e-book market is established now—it’s a natural stabilisation, rather than a slowdown,” says one publisher; “The novelty [of e-books] has worn off a bit,” adds another. “The market is reaching maturity,” reckons another. “It is simply market saturation—those who have converted to e-books did so long ago, and now the rate of new adopters is equal to those moving away from e-books.”

The five years of the Digital Census have revealed divisions in publishers’ attitudes to e-book royalties, and there is no sign of them closing. More than half (51.2%) think rates should be the same as for print books, but just over a third (36.6%) think they should be higher, and the rest (12.2%) lower.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

The future of books is on your phone, not your tablet

5 November 2014

From The Verge:

Subscription book app Oyster has come a long way since launching just over a year ago. The service has more than quadrupled its library of books to 500,000, landed big publishers like Disney, and released apps on several new platforms like the web. This week, the company debuted a new feature called Book Lists that’s like GoodReads — except this time, the place to find new books is also the place to read them with one tap.

It seemed like a good time to catch up with Willem Van Lancker, the creative co-founder of Oyster.

. . . .

Even my friends with Kindles don’t seem to read a ton anymore. There are just so many distractions that seem to deliver quicker fixes of entertainment. How do you compete as an app sitting right next to Instagram and YouTube?

It’s funny — if an investor isn’t a big reader, they don’t see a market for this. But we’ve seen that for young people especially, reading has taken off and become a bigger form of entertainment than music or movies in certain situations. When you’re on the subway or laying in bed, what we want to do is make reaching for books as easy as possible. And when you see the YouTube logo and Oyster logo next to each other, that you can feel that you can dive into that book really easily. We want to be the premium entertainment source for that content.

It’s important to understand that the reading population in the US is massive. The books market, in terms of total books sold worldwide, is bigger than both movies and music. If you include educational books, it gets even bigger. Book reading is a huge attention-driving activity in the world. How many hours do you have to allocate per day for books, movies, etc? What we’ve found is that there’s a massive appetite for this.

. . . .

Is your selection part of package deals, or individually vetted?

We work with six of the top ten publishing houses. Those are the guys that when we sign with them, it adds thousands of books to the library, and that spans everything from literary fiction to sci-fi and the many imprints within them. On the other end of the spectrum we work with some of the best independents in the world, and we’ve been very targeted towards finding independents that maybe only have 20 or 30 ebooks, but those books are the caliber of the top titles on Penguin or Simon and Schuster, and those are like McSweeney’s, Melville House, Chronicle, Disney, Nat Geo, it’s a lot of big name brands with libraries that aren’t quite as large. On that end of the spectrum we’ve signed pretty much everyone meaningful and have deals with all of them. There are only a couple publishers that we still haven’t formed deals with.

. . . .

Amazon doesn’t release much info about the data it gleans from its many readers. What are you guys seeing?

The biggest thing is that our engagement is really off the charts. Our average user uses Oyster for over an hour every day. That’s on the level of Facebook. People are staring at Oyster, which counts for a lot in the mobile economy in a weird way. And most of the time that’s in a book. We get people to books really quickly. On average people tend to open about four books to each book they end up going on to read, so there’s that sense of sampling and browsing. We have the fastest downloads of any other ebook platform. The idea is that you tap the book and you’re on the first page, which really lowers the barrier to reading.

In terms of funny trends, romance books get read faster, especially towards the end. There’s a lot more highlighting in non-fiction. The movement around books is interesting, because with fiction it’s always just a straight line. And there are some books that people just don’t finish. Gatsby is started constantly and never finished.

Where are people reading more, tablets, phones, or on the web?

We’ve always been really big believers that the device of the future for books is the phone. That’s the first thing we went to publishers with when we started talking about the differentiation of Oyster, that we can provide the best possible mobile experience.

It’s hard to get the data on this with Android, because, what is a tablet? But between iPhone and iPad, it’s a 50 / 50 split. It might even be higher on the phone in recent months over the iPad. This is an app that people use on their phone constantly, and we see the actual activity spiking during the week at lunchtime, and through the evening and peaks around midnight, and on the weekends it’s pretty sustained. Unlike a lot of products, our biggest days are Saturdays and Sundays, but when we added the web reader, you see it spiking on weekdays because people are reading during work.

We thought about making a button you could hit that would make Oyster look like Microsoft Word like they do for March Madness. It would be funny to bring that to books.

Link to the rest at The Verge

The implications of the computer moving from the desktop to our hip pocket

5 November 2014

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

Benedict Evans of Andreessen/Horowitz (an indispensible observer of digital change across media, and an analyst who explains Amazon better than any other I know) did a presentation called “Mobile is Eating the World”. It spells out the fact that just about everybody is going to have smartphones with connectivity very soon. One slide (slide 6) in the deck says that by the end of 2017 — a bit over three years away — fewer than 30 percent of the people on the planet willnot have them. That means that at least 95 percent of the people known to at least 95 percent of the people reading this post will.

Another slide in the deck (slide 28) says that we are already at a point where during the vast majority of every person’s waking hours, they are engaged in media or communications activity between 40 and 70 percent of the time.

. . . .

I think book publishers would be wise to focus on the marketing and consumption opportunities these shifts enable (or require) rather than letting this tech change entice them down the enhanced ebook rabbit hole yet another time. Mobile device usage replacing PC usage actually favors old-time book-reading, since limited screen real estate is not a handicap. But the processes of discovery and the means of purchase could be radically shifted.

. . . .

The screen switch might turn out to be the more minimal disruption. While the growth in mobile is real, so is the ubiquity of screens of many sizes in many places. The tech to allow something brought in on a phone to be “thrown” to another screen is pretty trivial — bluetooth already exists and other new things, like Chromecast enabling mirroring an Internet-enabled device to a TV, keep arriving. It isn’t hard to imagine that larger screens will be available for mobile devices to inform just about anywhere. And while there will always be a natural tendency to prefer viewing on the device you hold in your hand from which you control all your navigation (a big advantage for books), if a larger screen is required, it is increasingly going to be available whenever your need it.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Library Ebook Growth Slowing but Still Substantial

4 November 2014

From The Digital Shift:

Ninety-five percent of public libraries currently offer ebooks to patrons, up from 72 percent in 2010, and 89 percent in both 2012 and 2013. However, money remains the biggest impediment for libraries looking to add ebooks or expand collections, according to Library Journal’s fifth annual Ebook Usage in U.S. Public Librariesreport, sponsored by Freading.

The growth in demand for ebooks has cooled during the past four years, although as the report notes, this “is only because [ebooks] have become less of a novelty and more mainstream.” Survey respondents said they expected to see their library’s ebook circulation grow by 25 percent this fiscal year, compared with 108 percent growth in 2011, 67 percent in 2012, and 39 percent in 2013.

Collections have grown substantially during the past four years as well, and increased options and availability for patrons likely played a role in slowing the growth in demand. In 2010, the median number of ebooks offered by libraries was only 813, compared with a median of 10,484 titles in 2014—an increase of nearly 1,200 percent.

. . . .

Survey respondents reported that their ebook collections are 74 percent fiction and 26 percent nonfiction, while print book collections were split at 57 percent fiction and 43 percent nonfiction. The top five fiction ebook categories reported by respondents are bestsellers, mystery/suspense, romance, general adult fiction, and YA fiction, while the top five nonfiction categories are bestsellers, biographies/memoirs, history, self-help, and cooking.

. . . .

For the first time this year, tablets overtook dedicated e-readers as the device of choice for ebook readers. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that their library’s patrons were using tablets such as iPads, Kindle Fires, or Google Nexus tablets to check out ebooks, while 78 percent said that patrons were using dedicated e-reader devices such as NOOKs or Kindle Paperwhites. This compares to 66 percent who said patrons were using tablets for ebooks in 2012, and 90 percent who said patrons were using dedicated e-readers.

“Tablets will likely continue to take over, as they can access a wider variety of content, from ebooks to streaming video, to music, to audiobooks, to the Internet in general,” the report notes. “The killer app for the earliest dedicated ereaders like the Kindle was the reflective display which was ‘as easy to read as paper.’ Well, these days, people are more used to reading on screens than on paper, and backlit screens have improved so that older eyes can read even smartphone screens with minimal squinting.”

Link to the rest at The Digital Shift

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