It truly is a whole new world for book publishing. No matter where you are – at the beach, on an airplane, or in the subway – you will see people with their Kindles or iPads. There are headlines in every magazine and newspaper about Google’s Publishing platform, tools from Apple that threaten the text book market, Amazon’s success with ebooks, and predictions of the demise of the publishing industry as we know it.
While the transition to digital is not moving at the same rate for all publishing segments (Trade, K–12, Higher Education, Professional, and Scholarly), it is generally believed that ebook sales will account for a substantial portion of trade revenues within the next five years. Just a few years ago, traditional companies were more frightened of this transformation than excited about the opportunity. Today, this has reversed. Printers, publishers, booksellers, distributors, and agents have embraced the new technologies and are retooling their businesses to accommodate a world of digital and printed books.
The Good News… Book Sales Are Up!
In August 2011, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) released the U.S. BookStats. This is considered one of the most comprehensive statistical surveys conducted in the modern publishing industry. It is focused on capturing size, scope, revenue, and expansion across multi-platform content and sales distribution channels. Net sales for publishers increased to $27.94 billion in 2010, representing a 5.6% increase over 2008. Publishers sold 2.57 billion net units in 2010, marking a 5.6% increase over 2008. Growth hit all segments. Higher education was up 18.7%, with sales reaching $4.55 billion in 2010.Sale of trade books grew 5.8% to $13.9 billion, partly fueled by ebooks. One of the strongest growth areas was adult fiction, which saw a revenue increase of 8.8%. While ebooks represented only .6% of the total market in 2008, this share had risen to 6.4% by 2010. A September 2011 Harris Poll indicates that one in six Americans (15%) currently uses an eReader, while another 15% plan to purchase one in the next six months. At the same time, however, this also implies that 70% of the market does not own an eReader and has no near-term plans to acquire one.
The key message is that eReaders are definitely here to stay, so the printing and publishing worlds must change with the times. There will always be a place for hardcover and paperback books, but recent developments will demand a huge transition for book printers and publishers alike. How businesses adapt will determine who is left standing five years from now.
Check back next week for Part 2 of this post!