2015 Book Business Trendspotting Report
At the end of 2014 Book Business surveyed our audience, asking what trends and technology they think will have an impact on book publishing in 2015. While the responses will help us better understand the publishers we serve, they also reveal where the industry is headed. The survey gathered information on where publishers expect growth for the businesses, what tools they plan to invest in, and the areas they'd like further education.
Over half of the respondents work in the trade (34%) and education (22%) sectors. The remaining are evenly distributed among religious, university, professional, STM, and association publishing segments. Book manufacturers (8%) and other industry suppliers (11%) also participated. And most respondents hold senior executive management roles (38%).
Ebooks Lead Industry Growth
Understandably respondents' assessment of what the future holds was mixed, but a few interesting trends did stand out. We were curious what book products will spur revenue growth in 2015. 79% of respondents anticipate ebooks will be the primary driver or growth. Print came in second at 60%. Interestingly publishers do not view ebook apps and non-book apps as crucial to revenue growth. Although publishers have realized the profitability and potential of ebooks, the app model and resultant ROI have yet to be cracked.
The Future of Marketing and Bookselling
Because more publishers are experimenting with new marketing and bookselling tools, be they subscription sites or social media, we thought it was important to ask publishers what platforms hold the greatest opportunity. The variety of responses was revealing. Yet 68% of respondents believe social media will become a crucial part of the book marketer's toolkit. A distant second, 49% of respondents believe direct sales is an important bookselling model for the future.
Despite significant debate and media coverage, subscription services remain low in publishers' growth projections. With only 29% of respondents selecting subscription services, publishers are skeptical of the actual revenue opportunities. Fears of book sales cannibalization may also deter publishers from taking a deep dive into these services.
Publishers' 2015 Investment Plans
When asked what services or tools publishers plan to purchase in 2015, ebook conversion services (37%) and digital printing and print on demand services (36%) topped the list. Paper came in third with 21%, which is perhaps in a response to the 2.4% growth Nielsen BookScan reported in print sales last year as compared to 2013. It seems that many readers and publishers are not willing to abandon the printed page.
Discoverability Issues Not Yet Solved
We asked respondents what educational topics they would like to see from Book Business this year. Interests ran the whole gamut, but SEO and discoverability edged out other topics at 43%. As more brick-and-mortar stores shutter their windows, publishers must learn to recreate the serendipitous and gratifying browsing experience of a physical store on digital platforms. It is a space of significant development in the publishing startup community, and will continue to be in 2015.
Respondents also indicated interest in consumer marketing, digital asset management, and metadata -- all data-heavy endeavors. Curiously, data management was the second lowest area of interest. Publishers' hurdle in 2015 will be synthesizing the wide variety of data inputs into a more cohesive narrative about their audience.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.