Print book sales revenue is on the decline. That has many Canadian publishers, book retailers, and even literacy advocates in a panic. The good news, however, is that people aren’t reading less, they’re just reading differently.
Is publishing changing? Of course it is. BookNet Canada’s research indicates that fiction readers who prefer genres like Mystery and Romance, show a preference for eBooks. Non-fiction is seeing an increase in readers preferring eBooks for Business topics and even Cookbooks.
Advantages of ePublishing
It seems that Canadian publishers are so busy panicking over a decline in print revenue, they’re entirely missing the opportunities and advantages of electronic publishing (ePublishing). The new book formats offer much more than an environmentally-friendly alternative to print.
- Production is far less expensive.
- Books can be published as soon as they’re complete.
- Access to global markets is virtually effortless.
- It is now feasible to publish extreme niche books that wouldn’t have found a large enough market before.
- Audio versions are much easier to distribute worldwide.
- A considerable chunk of revenue can come from eBooks. For example, at the London Book Fair 2015, Hannah Telfer, of Penguin Random House UK, said around 25% of Penguin Random House revenue comes from digital products.
The downside (from a publisher’s perspective) is self-publishing has become so much easier. That too opens up new opportunities for the adaptive publisher, however, such as the opportunity to preview an author’s work and its popularity before offering a publishing contract.
Maybe it’s because of the “real time” publishing involved with newspapers, but it is that corner of the publishing industry that has quite efficiently evolved into the electronic age. The daily newspaper has had to compete not only with electronic devices, but masses of electronic alternatives. From major websites like Yahoo to beginner bloggers, readers have an overwhelming number of places to read their news. But newspapers have adapted to that by hybridizing print and electronic delivery methods. They have websites with the day’s news and most also have electronic subscriptions to their newspaper. Typically, you can subscribe to the electronic version alone or get free access to it if you subscribe to the print version. The book publishing industry can learn a lot from the way they think.
We’ve seen a big change in how publishers have embraced eBooks in the past couple of years, and their bottom line has enjoyed the benefits. The following data is from BookNet Canada’s report, State of Digital Publishing in Canada 2013.
Canadian Publisher eBook Revenue Data
- 64% of Canadian publishers generate 1-10% of their total revenue from eBook sales
- 18% of Canadian publishers generate 11-20% of their total revenue from eBook sales
- 8% of Canadian publishers generate more than 30% of their total revenue from eBook sales
- 5% of Canadian publishers generate 21-30% of their total revenue from eBook sales
- 5% of Canadian publishers generate no revenue from eBook sales
TV didn’t kill radio, video didn’t kill the movie industry, and eBooks will not kill publishing. Our society is evolving to embrace and utilize technology in a myriad of ways. We should be happy that reading is evolving with it, ensuring that book publishing won’t go the way of the dinosaurs.
Note: We blatantly stole the term “eBookalypse” from Kevin Ashton. His 2015 presentation, A history of the end of reading, or how to survive the Ebookalypse, dives deeper into the concerns about eBooks “killing” publishing. Edit: Kevin credits Randy Henderson for coining the term “eBookalypse”.
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