How are eBooks changing the publishing and reading worlds?

In the last several months, (electronic) e-books sales have finally exceeded those of traditional print publication. This post discusses how are eBooks changing the publishing and reading worlds.

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Computers_g62-Tablet_Computer_And_Books_p93750.htmlThanks to portable devices, such as tablet computers and smartphones, we, as consumers, have been enjoying the access and convenience of electronic books (e-books). However this access is having repercussions in traditional publishing circles, as revenues from print books and other publications have been steadily declining in favour of e-books. The Caribbean has not been immune to the changes that have been occurring. Local booksellers have been experiencing dropping sales, and in some instances are trying to adjust to changing consumer preferences (Source: Daily Observer).

Interesting facts and stats

In many respects, e-books have revitalised both the publishing and reading spheres. Authors and publishers have a new medium through which to distribute content and generate profits, whilst we, the consumers, have more content to choose from, usually at cheaper price points than traditional books. The bullets, which were drawn from articles in Mashable and the Huffington Post, along with the infograhic below, should begin to highlight the impact of e-books.

  • Worldwide, sale of e-readers have been steadily increasing
  • The licensing and pricing arrangements for e-books are still being finalised. Over the last few years there have been a number of lawsuits between publishers and e-book sales channel, such as Amazon and Apple, which are still being resolved
  • On Amazon, e-book sales exceed those for printed books; for every 100 printed books sold, 114 e-books are sold
  • People who own e-books tend to read more books, about 24 per year, than those who do not – around 15 books per year
  • Amazon Kindle is the most popular e-reader device, with over 60% market share
  • Printed books are the preferred medium for children, and for reading to children
  • Print books are reportedly easier to read – reading on an Apple iPad is 6.2% slower, whilst on an Amazon kindle is 10.7% slower.
    http://mashable.com/2012/09/19/e-reader-infographic/
    The Rise of eReading (Source – Mashable & Schools.com)

Do you really own an e-book?

It is important to highlight that unlike print publications, for which you can lawfully own a copy, loan, and possibly sell to others, with e-books, the purchaser is generally granted a licence solely to access the content.  In the Terms of Use provided by many online books sellers, it is often clearly stated that the purchase of and access to e-books does not give the customer “tangible ownership”. As a result, e-books cannot be shared, and access to the content tends to be restricted to a specific e-reader or to the customer’s e-book account (Source: The Sydney Morning Herald).

Emerging impact of e-books

Mainstream e-books and electronic publishing is still a developing platform, hence its full impact on the electronic and Internet ecosystems is still emerging. Nevertheless and as mentioned above, it is providing greater access to publications, even for Caribbean consumers, since most e-books can be purchased and downloaded from popular online booksellers without hassle. As a result, we, in the region, will likely be reading more.

Attention must also be drawn to the relative ease and cost-effectiveness of producing an e-book – there are several free options – which means that unlike traditional publishing methods, this medium can facilitate even greater content creation. Hence similar to social media and Web 2.0, where each user can be a content creator, every individual has the potential to prepare and publish an e-book, and so contribute to the global body of knowledge.

The ease of e-book publishing could be a significant factor in the Caribbean and in other developing countries, where there has been a continuing emphasis on the creation of local content. Unlike social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which to foster immediate but temporary communication, the e-book lends itself to more cogent and lasting engagement. Hence it offers a valuable and viable option, to supplement or replace tradition publishing.

Finally, have you ever been in search of a particular book, only to eventually realise that it is out of print, and so is not readily available? The e-book has the potential to eliminate this. Printed books are published in finite batches. When the initial supply is exhausted it tends to be replenished only when there is sufficient demand, for example when the book is considered a best seller, or is mandatory reading. However, when an e-book is published, it potentially can exist and be accessed into perpetuity, with minimal to no additional cost being incurred by the publisher.  Hence, it can create a win-win situation for not just publishers and authors, whose books can remain (almost permanently) in circulation, but also for prospective readers, who can have access to that content as and when needed.

 

Image credit: adamr (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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1 Comment

  • Some interesting statistics.

    I tend to think the catchment for hardcover/paperback readers is still alive. The “e-” substance lies not so much in the ease to publish, but in the enabling ease to access reading content. That is, for e.g, the ease to access a paperback book that is out of print because an online retailer can source it from an obscure wholesaler and does not need to have shelf space for it.

    The essence of “Long Tail” ( a term popularised by Chris Anderson in his book/blog here: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html ) book sales is a direct result of the existence of a large catchment of paperback readers.

    But this is an interesting article, it brings forth something to watch over the next 2 years.

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