Cover Story: Are We on the Verge of an E-book Explosion?
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.”
Still, e-books comprise just a few percentage points of total sales (1 percent to 2 percent seems to be the norm) for many publishers. But with the rapid growth many are seeing in e-book sales, Michael Norris, Simba Information’s senior trade book analyst, is “sure the e-book unit percentage has crept up a tiny bit overall.”
Bigger questions, though, he says, deal with pricing e-books—and the number of people reading e-books (15 percent) vs. those paying for them (8 percent) [according to Simba’s “Trade E-Book Publishing” report]—as well as declining print sales and the fact that e-book sales are not offsetting these declines.
Norris also adds that e-book sales figures don’t necessarily include revenue from other ways publishers are making money from digital content, such as “licensing agreements, ad-support sites …, for example, which,” he says, “make e-books look quaint.”
The expansion of digital learning tools in higher education is opening another significant market. Princeton, Pace, Arizona State and other institutions recently joined an Amazon pilot program to give students Kindle DX e-readers for select courses. As part of the program, Amazon added more than 100 McGraw-Hill Education textbooks to the Kindle store. However, McGraw-Hill’s digital learning materials go far beyond e-readers.