Cover Story - Outlook 2010: The Future of the Industry
Recent data on consumer use of e-books have revealed some surprising trends, Gallagher reports. "For the first half of , what drove the growth [of e-books] was the over-55 market. We tend to think of the more mature market as less gadget-friendly or techno-friendly, but when you unpack it a little, in the first half of the year, they had the single largest percentage growth by age group."
The reason for this, he says, is the device's adjustable typeface, allowing for an instant large-print edition of any book, as well as a delivery method that meshes well with the book-club model already popular with women older than 65.
Examples like this underscore the need for publishers to understand audiences and the way they choose to interact with the new medium. (Bowker is currently working with the Book Industry Study Group on a research survey tracking consumer attitudes toward e-book reading.)
"One of the things we saw, looking at it from a research-committee standpoint, was that while publishers were scurrying to create their own e-strategies, there really was not much in the way of understanding what the consumers' e-strategy was," Gallagher says. "In this day and age, it is absolutely essential [that] you understand who your customer is before you invest significant amounts of dollars."
Don't Fear the Reader
Amid all the uncertainty surrounding e-books is a great opportunity for book publishers to reconnect with audiences, Gallagher and others say. If some are concerned that Amazon may enter the publishing business, Amazon should probably worry about the increasing number of ways publishers can bypass distribution partners to connect directly with consumers.
"It is possible for the publisher, through such things as subscriptions and price plans, to reach out directly and offer bundled content or package deals to the consumer, and this is just in the short term," Rubin says. "Who knows what's going to happen later on."