Cover Story : Are We on the Verge of an E-book Explosion?October 2009 By Thorin McGee
"The market for digital books … has been roughly doubling every 18 months,” says Andrew Savikas, O’Reilly Media’s vice president of digital initiatives. “Follow that line out, and in less than a decade it’s 64 times the size it is now.”
Savikas has reason to be optimistic. Consumers are adopting reading on screen like never before:
• 15 percent of U.S. adults have read at least one e-book, according to Simba Information’s recent “Trade E-Book Publishing: 2009 Market Report.”
• Trade wholesale electronic-book revenue was more than $37 million in the second quarter of 2009, compared to just $11.6 million in Q2 2008, according to the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF).
• More than 12 million e-books have been downloaded by the Stanza e-reader iPhone app, which turned one-year old in July.
• The number of e-readers on the market has surged. (See Book Business’ list of 30 current e-readers.)
Digital Surpassing Print Sales?
O’Reilly Media released the e-book of “iPhone: The Missing Manual” as a standalone iPhone app in December 2008. The app outsold its best-selling print counterpart.
The company followed that success with a multiplatform digital publishing strategy. Consumers who buy an O’Reilly e-book get three digital rights management (DRM)-free formats of it: ePub, PDF and the Kindle-compatible Mobipocket. Or, customers can purchase the books as standalone mobile apps for the iPhone and Android smartphone.
O’Reilly’s digital strategy has been successful enough to convince Savikas that more people will read O’Reilly books in digital form than print within the next 12 months. What’s more, O’Reilly’s share of the printed computer book market has risen since it implemented its e-book strategy, suggesting that e-book success has not cut into print sales despite lower price points, he says.
HarperCollins also is capitalizing on e-book momentum. Ninety-five percent of the publisher’s titles are released in digital format, and same-month e-book sales have increased as much as 400 percent (June 2009 vs. June 2008).
“We see [e-books] as a very effective vehicle to attract additional readers to our authors, and that’s our primary goal,” says HarperMedia Vice President and Publisher Ana Maria Allessi. “It’s huge growth, but of course the growth is accompanied by a period of great change. ... Every day it seems something new is announced or something new will impact these formats.”