Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: June 6th, 2012 ]

Since November 2009, Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading, a survey conducted by Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG), has been tracking the habits and preferences of book consumers who have acquired an e-book or a dedicated e-reading device within the past 18 months. The report shows important information for authors and publishers. Not only do the findings squash the pessimistic rumors that the publishing industry is dying, but the report also gives authors and publishers a glimpse at the future of publishing. Here is an overview of some of the most interesting and hopeful statistics.

  • Readers’ preference for designated e-readers has dropped from 72% to 58%, while readers’ preference for multi-functional tablets has increased from 13% to 24%.
  • The Apple iPad was not the preferred tablet; instead, readers choose non-Apple devices, such as those offered by Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
  • More than 62% of survey respondents reported an increase in dollars spent on e-books.
  • More than 72% of survey respondents reported an increase in the number of e-books they are purchasing.

The movement from e-readers to tablets is important for authors and publishers to be aware of because it offers insight to what readers want. As multi-functional tablet devices become more popular, authors and publishers will be expected to produce a richer, more interactive e-book experience. In addition, the increase in e-book sales is great news for authors and publishers. It shows that there is a demand for great writing and that publishing, though in a new format, is still alive. If you are considering self-publishing a book, be sure to consider offering both a print and electronic version of your book. This will ensure that you appeal to both e-book and print consumers.

– by Kelly Shuknecht

We’ve written about the changes in the long-term outlook for e-books more recently than this 2012 post, but I think it’s important to look a little further back in time–to a moment in the history of e-books when it looked as though both print and e-book models might have unlimited growth possibilities.  But of course, they don’t–unlimited growth often looks possible in the early stages of a new market, only to slow and eventually plateau when that market’s growth reaches a balance with existing ones.

Bowker Report

In the case of e-books, the market held steady through some fairly revolutionary changes within the distribution platform––from dedicated e-readers to iPads and tablets to mobile––but the bottom ultimately dropped out after Hachette and Amazon resolved their price-fixing dispute.  And I have to be careful when I weigh the consequences of this dispute, since one of the oft-quoted reasons Hachette brought its suit in the first place was to negotiate better terms for its authors.  One of the end results has been, of course, that booksellers and publishers were able to jack up their prices for e-books, often reducing the price difference between print and e-book editions to a pittance.  And if buying an e-book saves readers just two or three dollars off of a print price (often in excess of $20 for new books), the preference for the weight of a print book in hand wins out.

Or at least, that’s what sales figures are showing. People still read print books.  And they’re not about to stop reading e-books either, due to their portability.  But there’s no getting around it: “Consumer behavior has changed,” says Randy Petway, Chief Revenue Officer at Ingenta.  When asked by Publishing Perspectives what the greatest challenge facing publishers today might be, he responded that it’s “Understanding and adapting to the way content is bought and read since the rise of digital publishing.”  We may have reached a new equilibrium in the quantity of e-books sold, but we have yet to fully contextualize this new market in other ways––including finance and law. This place we’ve reached is a messy one, as Petway reminds us, but it’s also rife with opportunities.  What will be our next step forward?

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

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