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A Maturing Ebook Market

A new Book Business/ InfoTrends study shows publishers are focused on improving the e­book user experience.

July 2012 By Stephanie Pieruccini & Bryan Yeager of InfoTrends
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By now, it’s no surprise that tablets and mobile devices are revolutionizing the way we consume and interact with media. Although print is not expected to disappear anytime soon (63 percent of book publishers see no end­ in sight for producing printed books as part of their mix), book publishers are ramping up production of e­books with a focus on improving the overall user experience to accommodate the transitioning consumer. While more than half of the book publishers we surveyed decide how to produce a book on a per-publication basis, 30 percent are consistently producing both an e­book and printed book for each new publication.

Of those respondents not currently producing e­books, 85 percent are planning to offer e­books within the next three years. Backlist is also going digital: About 80 percent of book publishers surveyed report having a strategy in place for making backlist titles available as e­books. Furthermore, with the Association of American Publishers announcing in June 2012 that e­book revenues outpaced hardcover revenues for the first time ever, it is clear that book publishers must anticipate a more digital future.

Due to the increased capabilities of technology, especially in tablets, there has been a demand for producers to improve how a reader can interact with and perceive the content. We asked about priorities for e­book production and distribution in the next 12 to 18 months, and respondents pegged improving the overall user experience as their top priority. With online and mobile user experiences continuing to become more interactive and intuitive, publishers and device manufacturers have been criticized for the limited font choices and lack of consideration for the flow of e­book text on mobile devices. As such, improving e­book design and typography was rated as another important priority, which also helps support the overall user experience.

Apple’s growing presence in the e­book market, along with wide adoption of highly capable tablets and e-readers, has led some book publishers to consider embedding rich media in their e­books. File sizes resulting from embedding rich media can be substantial, although that is less of a concern, according to respondents.

Control over the user experience can be limited, however, by the capabilities provided by the e­book format of choice or the target device. For 76 percent of book publisher respondents, Adobe PDF is the format of choice for their e­books, followed closely by EPUB (68 percent). While PDF supports some interactive elements, the wide variety of devices and platforms makes it a challenge to deliver consistent experiences from a single-source file. EPUB, on the other hand, allows for text reflow, enables the reader to control font formats and sizes, and natively supports rich media such as video, music, graphics and animation.

 

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