E-books' Impact on ROI
After several reboots, e-book publishing is seeing signs of growth. Recent sales figures compiled by the Open eBook Forum (OeBF) have given publishers an indication of what the future holds.
And that future might be now. For the first quarter of 2004, e-books posted double-digit growth (28 percent), and though revenue is projected to be a modest $13 million for the year, sales are rising, and the OeBF, an international trade and standards organization for the electronic publishing industry, began tracking sales of trade titles via a monthly bestseller list in March. Given all the optimism, publishers have taken a harder look at their e-book programs and are putting better marketing campaigns behind them.
"E-books have been strategic tools for a lot of publishers for the past four or five years," says Steve Potash, president and CEO of Overdrive.com, a provider of inventory and rights management to online booksellers. "As we look at the life cycle of an e-book, it is a very valuable tool for publishers. It's valuable as a galley, [for] sharing with potential buyers and with reviewers."
But, in the long run, can publishers really rely on e-book publishing as a surefire moneymaker? Or will e-books sales detract from print sales, hurting the tried-and-true business model? E-book publishing is still too new to really know the answer, but opinions vary.
"It's pretty standard across the industry in that there's still no one winning model for e-books," says Patrick Durando, director of media technology with McGraw-Hill Professional. "[E-book] publishing was back to square one a couple of years ago. I think there's good growth, but the total market is still very small compared to other parts of publishing. That said, there's a lot of opportunity with e-books, if done the right way."
And there's no better starting point than with what's already a hit, as it seems what sells in print sells online. According to OeBF's May best-seller list, the top selling e-book was "The Da Vinci Code," by Dan Brown, a print title that still tops The New York Times best-seller list.