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 

I Wrote A Comment On IPN | Irish Booksellers Are Missing Out On Digital Sales | Irish Publishing News

It’s about booksellers and ebooks:

Last week a new science-fiction and fantasy title, A Dance With Dragons, sold 2,200 copies in hardback in Ireland. What’s more, it did so at over €20 per copy. An impressive result and a great boost for the booksellers who sold it.

In countries like the US and the UK though the same book sold huge numbers of hardback copies AND huge numbers of ebook editions, 170,000 print copies and 110,000 e-book copies1 on its first day of sales alone in the US according to its US Publisher, Random House. In the UK, the Bookseller reports that, ‘HarperCollins sold more than 10,000 e-books’ and ‘ 28,840 copies last week in bookshops.’2

You would imagine that with a perfect opportunity to increase the visibility of ebooks in Ireland and with a clear market for the ebook version, Irish booksellers would have been keen to exploit the interest. You’d be wrong. No Irish bookseller sold a single copy of

via Friday Comment: Irish Booksellers Are Missing Out On Digital Sales | Irish Publishing News.

A counterpoint to this The British James Joyce by Brenda Maddox – TLS

So this month I published a book. It was an incredible experience, especially because it was with a talented author and about a fascinating topic. The book is called A Little Circle Of Kindred Minds: Joyce in Paris and it’s written by Conor Fennell. As you might imagine, it is about James Joyce and the group of friends he built up during the twenty years he spent in Paris. All of which serves as precursor to the article below from The Times Literary Supplement yesterday:

“There Joyce continued to retreat from formal Irish identity. At the end of 1931, when his father died in Dublin, he would not go to Ireland for the funeral, as he felt he would not be safe from prosecution. In 1932, he declined an invitation to a St Patrick’s Day party in Paris when told the Irish ambassador would be there; he feared his presence might imply an endorsement of the new Free State. That same year he refused an invitation from W. B. Yeats to become a member of the new Irish Academy of Letters as “I see no reason why my name should have arisen at all in connection with such an academy” (though he wished it success). Indeed, as he was writing Finnegans Wake, he asked Miss Weaver, “Why go on writing about a place I did not dare to go to at such a moment, where not three persons know me or understand me . . ?”.

via The British James Joyce by Brenda Maddox – TLS. I wanted to suggest that what Maddox is saying is just not plausible. Especially when you consider just how obsessed with Dublin Joyce was. Just as an example I thought I’d share a little of Conor’s excellent book:

Austin Clarke got similar treatment when, in the winter of
1923, he used to meet Joyce promptly at 6pm outside the
church of St Sulpice. The two would adjourn to a quiet café
where, after a long silence, Joyce would ask: ‘Is Mulvaney’s
shop still there at the corner?’ – the first of many
questions.
When Kenneth Reddin arrived at Joyce’s apartment in
Square Robiac he found it full of Irish newspapers, including
provincial ones. He was impressed that Joyce was able to
recall the smart remarks by witnesses at Kilmainham
District Court over which Reddin presided.
At dinner at the Trianons Joyce challenged him and the
artist Patrick Tuohy to name the shops from Amiens
Street station (now Connolly station) to Nelson’s Pillar,
first on one side then back on the other. ‘Mostly he was
three or four shops in front of us,’ said Reddin. ‘When
Tuohy and I left a gap, he filled it. When he named a new
proprietor, he named, and remembered the passing of, the
old.’

When you read about the man in that way it becomes impossible to believe he was anything but Irish in the true sense. Yes he might have, at times, had issues with the state and even some of the people, but there was no way he could be described a s British as Maddox seems to claim. I could say you should read more of Conor’s book to uncover the truth and I really do think that would help, but perhaps that might be just a little self-serving!

Garret FitzGerald

Some years ago, when Ciaran Lawlor was auditor of the Literary & Historical Society, I was asked if I’d like to deliver a paper to the society. I, of course, said yes and used the opportunity to speak pretty forcefully (there are those who will say crazily) about the need for the EU to be an active (military) force for good in the world, because no-one else would do it.

One of the respondents, the one who cut me right down to size, was Garret FitzGerald (who served as a vice-president of the society) who very sadly passed away this week.

Garret may have destroyed many of my arguments with considerable eloquence but he was also the one who before and after I delivered the paper was full of amazing stories and funny lines about his various adventures, and when he spoke of them, they did sound like adventures. He had no sense of superiority about him and engaged with everyone as equals.

I felt honoured then and I feel even more honoured now. More than that though I feel lucky, lucky that I have lived in a state that was home to such a man, that I had the fortune to meet and speak with him and had the opportunity to experience a firm intellectual drubbing (good for the soul) from him. I feel lucky to have lived in a time when his leadership was a force for such good in the country.

There’s just no replacing Garret FitzGerald. We are, as a nation, impoverished by his passing.