Editor's Note: Navigating the New Frontier
I was somewhat surprised to learn, through our annual reader survey, that almost 50 percent of Book Business readers do not currently offer e-books. And, of those who do publish e-books, most offer e-books of 30 percent or less of their titles. With e-books still constituting just 1 percent or 2 percent of sales at most companies that offer e-books, I understand the concerns of those who are shying away from investments (in time or money) in e-books. I also understand the perspective of those who love print—I am one of those people.
But if the actions of major industry players and recent headlines are any indication, e-books may very well be significant revenue drivers in the not-too-distant future.
Victoria Barnsley, CEO of Harper Collins UK, recently told London-based The Sunday Times: “I predict that, within 10 years, 50 percent of all books will be read electronically. We are at the equivalent of black-and-white television now, but once the technology is perfected, everything will change.”
HarperCollins, which has been a digital leader—it was named as Book Business’ Publishing Innovator of the Year in 2008—announced at the end of July that it had created a new position: editorial director, digital publishing. This was big news in the industry, as it is reportedly the first of the big publishers to create such a position. (It doesn’t seem too shocking considering digital positions of all kinds have been being created by the dozens at most large publishing houses, but it does suggest an increased focus on and investment in e-books.)
All the major industry players are putting serious resources into e-books: Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble (which recently announced its 700,000-plus-title eBookstore and exclusive partnership with the forthcoming Plastic Logic eReader), Google, etc.
E-book reading devices and retailers are popping up by the dozen—like a trail of ants to a source of food.
Currently, e-books are one of the only growth areas across the industry. And while the numbers are still small, Association of American Publishers’ figures indicate that e-book sales grew 166.7 percent in the first five months of this year compared to the same time period in 2008. In May, e-book sales were up almost 200 percent.
Last year, an analyst at technology investment banking company Pacific Crest Securities predicted that global e-book sales at Amazon could reach $2.5 billion by 2012, as reported by PaidContent.org. (As a frame of reference, Amazon’s total sales for 2008 were approximately $19.2 billion.)
Regardless whether publishers are already offering e-books or not, digital content is a new frontier, and it presents publishers with many questions—about formats, distribution, digital rights management (check out Andrew Brenneman’s column), pricing, business models for e-book publishing, and many others.
To help you navigate this unfamiliar terrain, Book Business is holding a special event, called “Digital Content Day @ Your Desk”—its first-ever virtual event. (As the name suggests, you don’t have to leave your desk to “attend”—and it’s free.) We’re bringing in industry experts and thought-leaders to share their insights and opinions on the quickly evolving e-marketplace, and all of its accompanying issues. Please take advantage of this event. You’ll not only hear from experts, but you’ll be able to ask questions and chat with other attendees. (You can find out more at PublishingBusiness.com/links/PBV.) I’ll see you … at your desk!