At the end of August, a Pew Research Center survey was released that showed digital books and the percentage of their readers has not increased since 2014. Many publishers praised this as great news for print. Justin Fox however, says the survey is misleading and in fact the overall “percentage of Americans consuming books in any form appears to be trending modestly downward. By holding steady, e-books are thus gaining a bit of ground over print.”
Fox cites that although the top established publishing companies are selling fewer e-books, it doesn’t mean that fewer e-books are being sold. In actuality, Indie Publishing e-book sales have risen dramatically over the past few years.
The reason for this shift is in part because of the different techniques employed by the “Big Five” and smaller publishers. There is a major cost difference in these e-books as well as different revenue cuts. Prominent new e-books are sold for an average of $12.99-$14.99, which is a similar range to the actual hardback on Amazon. Fox states that “when it comes to e-books, the established publishers are choosing not to offer a very good deal to either [the author or the reader].”
One reason e-books are on the rise is because of the disruptive nature of its technology. Fox explains that established publishers will naturally focus on their current consumers and ignore the new product. Then newcomers enter and take the product, continuing to improve it, until it becomes a dominant contender in the market and “the former industry leaders are left on the sidelines wondering what went wrong.”
Fox ends the article stating that these findings still mean publishing is healthy, but publishers should also realize that it is easier for authors to self-publish and produce saleable products in print and digital without their help.
Also according to the Pew survey 22% of 18-29 year olds now read books on their phones, which Fox believes opens an opportunity to whomever can perfect that format and pricing. Fox concludes in saying that “the e-book story probably isn’t over yet — and book publishers aren’t helping themselves by acting as if it were.”
Read the full Bloomberg article here.