Month: January 2012

Go Read This | Friday Project buys Aldiss backlist | The Bookseller

Interesting deal:

HarperCollins imprint The Friday Project has acquired more than 50 titles by prolific author, and former Bookseller columnist, Brian Aldiss.

Publisher Scott Pack bought UK and Commonwealth rights in the titles—comprising literary fiction, sci-fi and non-fiction works—as well as Aldiss—entire short-story archive from Gordon Wise at Curtis Brown. The acquisition also includes six new titles, which The Friday Project plans to publish in e-book and print editions over the next four years.

via Friday Project buys Aldiss backlist | The Bookseller.

Confusing Statistics And What They Might Mean

I was thrown by several stats in this story. (E-Book Bummer: Growth Slower Than Thought—‘Incremental, Not Exponential’ | paidContent.) I touched on the issue of digital growth earlier today, but this story warrants a separate consideration.

For one:

According to new data from Bowker and the Book Industry Study Group, the number of book buyers who also purchased an e-book increased by 17 percent in 2011, compared to 9 percent in 2010 – well below the 25 to 30 percent growth that some had hoped for.

When I read this as ‘the number of book buyers who also bought a book rose from 9% to 17%’ it looks like an 89% increase in book buyers who also bought ebooks. Sure it wasn’t the 175% or 250% increase (as would be the case if the figure reached 25% or 30%) as some people seemed to expect, but it is still reasonable. For the record, I read it that way following a Twitter exchange with the author Laura Hazard Owen (who has been writing some great pieces on the publishing and digital change):

Then there is the section that says:

Seventy-four percent of book buyers have never bought an e-book (and 14 percent of those actually own an e-reader or tablet but choose not to use it to read e-books).

Parse that for a moment. 26% of book buyers HAVE bought ebooks and 14% of 76% (10.5%) also  HAVE ereaders but don’t use them. Which means that circa 36.5% of book buyers have ereaders though they may or may not use them. Meaning, that while ebook purchasing might not have spread as widely as we thought, ownership of devices seems to be spreading pretty well.

Finally there is this startling statistic:

There’s a bright spot for e-book growth: Around 7 to 12 months after buying their first e-book, 72 percent of power buyers switch over to e-books exclusively.

Which reinforces the idea I’ve been pondering for a little bit, that this current phase of ebook development is about making heavy readers, heavy ereaders.

It is the reason why B&N needs to keep Nook locked into its stores and indeed why B&N has been so successful at gaining market share, because it was converting exactly the right people BOOK BUYERS into ebook buyers. It is why Amazon’s efforts are targeted at converting their best book buyers into digital readers hence their seemingly crazy popularization of the $9.99 price point (which I might add I liked, but hey) and why a broader strategy for converting light readers might not make sense just yet.

Getting ereaders into the hands of medium and heavy readers and encouraging them to use them EVENTUALLY is the key for now. There’s a whole different battle to come once that happens. Won’t that be fun?
Eoin 

Digital Growth At Quercus, And Beyond

There has been some grumbling (I’ve a note coming on that later) about the slow pace of digital take up in the US in the last few days and weeks. I’ve a feeling that has as much to do with the now higher benchmarks the digital market is growing from.

By which I mean if the ebook market is worth $1 million then to double it need only increase by $1 million however when the market is $100 million it needs to increase by $100 million to double and when it is a $1 billion it must grow by a full $1 billion in order to double. Needless to say whereas $1 million in increased sales is hard to find, $1 billion is considerably harder.

On top of that, there is a real need to break analysis into markets to account for different market conditions. The UK is not the US and Ireland is not the UK. What’s more a UK publisher must react to UK market conditions. This has echoes of some of my thoughts about different rates of digital change from 2010. For instance, the UK is in the midst of a huge shift to digital BUT that shift has really happened over the last few months. 1.3 million ereaders were sold over the Christmas period and the UK market has as a consequence flourished since December.

Which makes the Quercus numbers all the more interesting. In 2011 digital sales accounted for 11% of their revenue, but grew 270% in December 2011 when compared to December 2010 promising a nice digital year in 2012.

We continue to benefit from our significant investments in digital publishing and marketing, website development and social networking. For the year as a whole, Quercus generated approximately 11% of its income from digital revenues, while the growth in ownership of eReading devices over the Christmas period contributed to an increase in eBook sales of 270% in comparison with the previous December.

via Quercus Christmas trading update | Quercus Books.

It’s entirely possible that many of those ereaders will remain idle, many will fall out of use, but enough will remain active to shift yet more readers who were once print dedicated into either digital dedicated reading or hybrid print/digital status. If those readers are heavy readers (as I suspect they will primarily be, after all why give someone who reads one book a year an ereader?) that will shift considerable numbers of digital units in 2012.

So the UK situation is very different to the US situation. We should avoid blanket statements.
Eoin 

Go Read This | Barnes & Noble, Taking On Amazon in the Fight of Its Life – NYTimes.com

B&N has, it seems to me, a pretty good sense of what it is doing in the digital space. What’s more, because it is converting heavy readers to digital reading it is gaining pretty credible market share. That is leading to some significant changes in the company. I was struck by the paragraph below while I read this rather good piece on the shift in The New York Times:

In one room, a virtual wallpaper of Nook color devices hangs in rows neat as a checkerboard. A common area holds a foosball table and a cooler of VitaminWater. Some of the walls are made of silver-colored mesh. Some of the cubicles are lime green.

via Barnes & Noble, Taking On Amazon in the Fight of Its Life – NYTimes.com.

Sounds like Google or Facebook or a dozen other tech start ups no?

Briefly Noted | E-Book Bummer: Growth Slower Than Thought—‘Incremental, Not Exponential’ | mocoNews

Print power buyers make up 22 percent of the overall print book-buying population, and they drive 53 percent of print book purchases overall.

Meanwhile, e-book power buyers make up 35 percent of the overall e-book buying population, but they drive 60 percent of overall e-book purchases. In other words, about a third of the overall buyers drive two-thirds of overall purchases. Casual e-book buyers “are not pulling their weight” compared with casual print book buyers, Gallagher said.

via E-Book Bummer: Growth Slower Than Thought—‘Incremental, Not Exponential’ | mocoNews.

Ebooks Are Boring? So What?

Nick Atkinson has an interesting post over on FutureBook this morning. In it he asks three questions he feels people aren’t asking about ebooks. The ones he hits on are:

EBooks  aren’t actually that exciting, so why are people buying them?

Why am I rubbish at selling books online?

Where the heck is my audience? They used to shop at Borders.

he’s got a refreshing perspective on some of those:

So why are we struggling so much to make a digital book look and feel like a book? I remember the overwhelming sense of disappointment, anti-climax and resignation that I felt when I first looked at an eBook, way back when, on the Iliad – a device thankfully confined to myth and legend (it had a STYLUS for god’s sake). Even now, working with a conversion supplier I’m proud to partner with, who does a good job of stretching the ePub and Kindle formats, whenever we get our eBooks back, we still often gaze misty-eyed at the print edition and wonder where the design went and that’s just on text-based product. If you are honest, you’ve felt the same way. We’ve had moments where we’ve tried to shoehorn full-colour books into reflowable epubs to see what would happen, got the files back and laughed out loud at ourselves for even bothering.

via 3 important questions about digital that nobody is asking. | FutureBook.

Not that he’ll be put out, but I disagree with the first half of his post pretty strongly in that I actually like ebooks as they are, simple text files. I don’t want enhancements.

There’s a peculiar, and seemingly pervasive, fear among publishers that the written word just isn’t compelling enough for their readers (one well addressed by James Bridle here) in the digital age. It’s something I just don’t understand. Afterall text is fine in print, why not in digital form?

The rest of it though, I’m mostly on board with and it speaks to the quick presentation on Niches & Communities I gave to publishers during the Pecha Kucha session at TOC Frankfurt in 2009.

Not, I stress, that I think ebooks are the end of all things book related as I myself wrote for Publishing Perspective some time ago:

THE critical concern should be developing an expertise in how to sell content in many different forms and at many different prices to different audiences. Publishers should be platform agnostic, selling wherever readers are willing to buy and not focusing if it is an e-book, an app, online access, segments, chapters, quotes, mash-ups, readings, conferences, or anything else (a point made Friday on Publishing Perspectives by Clive Rich).

Rather than expend their energy focusing on one format that may be fleeting, publishers need to focus on two long-term objectives: audience development and content curation. Neither of these are specific to digital activities, meaning that they will only serve to bolster the print side of the business as well, whether it declines rapidly or gradually.

Still, a good post that will no doubt generate discussion!
Eoin