Ebook Trends: The Year of Living Digitally
Digital adoption in higher education, however, has taken a different route altogether. Industry analyst Steve Paxhia of Beacon Digital Strategies noted that education publishers—traditionally known for selling print content at very high price points—are beginning to switch not to selling ebook versions of this content, but to offering interactive systems. “By switching their emphasis to integrated learning systems, which have an inherently more reliable revenue model, education publishers can afford to offer related content, both print and digital, at a significantly lower price. Trade publishers just don’t have that kind of leverage.” Paxhia co-authors a Book Industry Study Group (BISG) bi-annual report documenting changes in students’ interaction with print and digital curriculum. 
Since 2009, BISG has also reported on consumer ebook reading and purchase behavior.  The report surveys show that changes in portable device use continue to influence ebook adoption behavior. Just as Amazon’s successful blending of dedicated e-readers with its e-commerce prowess sparked a rise in narrative fiction ebooks, so too are more complex devices beginning to drive nonfiction readers toward the ebook format. From early 2010 through mid-2011, dedicated e-readers displaced PCs as respondents’ most preferred device for reading ebooks. However, the subsequent rise of tablet devices—led primarily by Amazon’s Kindle Fire—has changed the field again. The next report, out in March, shows tablets and dedicated e-readers at 43.9% and 42%, respectively. (See Table 1.)
The BISG study also provides insights into the book genres most affected by the ebook format. Fiction, particularly “guilty pleasure” fiction (e.g., mystery, romance) shows a rise in ebook popularity corresponding to the dominance of dedicated e-readers through mid-2011. However, while general fiction ebooks seem to have tapered off with the rise of tablets, other fiction types appear to be recovering as ebook-preferred genres. (See Table 2.)
John Parsons (email@example.com), former Editorial Director of The Seybold Report, is an independent writer, ghostwriter, and editor. He is the co-author of the interactive printed textbook, Introduction to Graphic Communication, on the art, science and business of print, which has been adopted by Ryerson, Arizona State, the University of Houston, and many other schools and vocational training centers. Custom editions of the book are under consideration by major printing companies and franchises for internal training purposes.