Book industry strategy group




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In its most recent survey, the ABS calculated that employment in the businesses designated as bookshops amounted to 8,717 people, including 697 working proprietors. More than two-thirds of employees were female, and just under half were employed casually. These numbers will have changed after the closure of Borders and some of the Angus & Robertson stores in 2011.


3 Current operating environment

Technological change

Each part of the book supply chain, from author to reader, is changing in response to digital technologies. While the ebook is often viewed as a symbol of this evolution, in reality digital delivery is affecting every part of book production, distribution and consumption. Faster internet access, improved security for online payment systems, digital information transfer and the uptake of social media have fundamentally changed the interface between supply and demand and facilitated a truly global market. Figure 14 illustrates the range of possibilities in the global book market, due largely to technological change and globalisation. Change in the global book business is occurring at an unparalleled pace, and the Australian industry must evolve to adapt to this fundamentally transformed market.

According to a report by Outsell Inc., digitisation has the potential to ‘…disrupt every element of the book ecosystem – from how an author is discovered to how content is created, distributed and sold’ (May, Fooladi & Worlock 2010: 19). In Inside book publishing, Clark and Philips (2009: 4) posed the following question: ‘Will the digital revolution be a seismic shift for the [publishing] industry on par with earlier pivotal movements?’ The earlier pivotal movements to which they referred are the introduction of the printing press in England in 1476, the development of the English novel in the eighteenth century and the first Penguin paperback published in 1935. While the response to the question will be varied and nuanced, it is clear that digitisation is already having a significant impact on the processes of book production, distribution, sales and consumption.

Figure 14: Possible futures for the Australian book industry



Digital platforms are used to offer books in printed and electronic forms, or a combination of both. Applications include print-on-demand, pay-per-view (single chapter purchases), audiobooks, ebooks and enhanced ebooks, which are linked to video, sound and interactive elements.

In Australia, ebook sales made a slow start, largely due to the lack of acceptable reading devices. However, since October 2009, when Amazon released its Kindle ereader globally, a wide range of ereader options have flooded the Australian, and most other, markets, with a corresponding increase in ebook sales (see Figure 15).

Figure 15: Value of ebook sales, by book type, 2005–10




Source: Cover to cover, Figure 24, p. 31.

Such devices include ereaders, tablets, smartphones, and notebooks and computers more broadly:

  • ereaders. Australian consumers now have access to a broad range of ereader devices. There is already evidence of downward pressure on ereader prices: In 2011, Amazon is selling the WiFi-only version of its Kindle in Australia for $139. This downward trend is likely to be compounded by the emergence of device suppliers in the Asian region, where the proprietary US brands are manufactured.

  • tablets such as Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. These are increasingly popular in Australia and can easily be used for ebook reading. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that 740,000 tablets were sold in Australia between the iPad’s release and the end of March 2011.

  • smartphones. According to Telstra (2010), ‘36 per cent of the Australian mobile population own a smartphone and ownership is expected to grow to more than half the Australian mobile population within 12 months’.

  • notebooks and computers. Notwithstanding their relatively low prominence in discussions about ebooks, computers remain one of the most popular means of reading ebooks. A survey commissioned by the Book Industry Study Group (2010) in the United States found that, in 2010, 37 per cent of readers were reading ebooks using computers – compared to 32 per cent for the Kindle and 3 per cent for the iPad.

Digital books have recently gained acceptance in the US market after an extended period in which they were largely limited to niche and specialist fields. This change has not arisen simply from the adoption of new ebook technologies; in fact, most of the technologies deployed have been in existence for at least a decade. What has changed is that a broader infrastructure has come into place to support consumer adoption of ebooks, specifically:

  • availability of fast broadband and mobile telecommunications

  • near-universal adoption of internet-based payment systems

  • development of a service infrastructure to convert, manage and distribute books in digital form

  • formation of a large web-based library of digital texts

  • diversification of large firms from several different sectors into the manufacture, sale and promotion of ebooks and ebook readers

  • release of a range of well-publicised ereading devices offering individual consumers wireless access to
    these texts.

The result is that US ebook sales have experienced rapid growth, though from a very low base. Ebook sales recorded by the Association of American Publishers rose 176.6 per cent in 2009, to give a compound growth rate of 71 per cent since 2002. The Economist has estimated that US sales of about 110 million units in 2008 grew to almost 340 million in 2009.

Changing consumer preferences

In line with the technological changes are changes in how consumers choose to access and read their books. This is as true in Australia as in other parts of the developed world and the available data confirm this trend.

Individuals

Australians are changing the way they are using communication services and how they value particular services. According to the Australian Consumer and Media Authority, four in five Australians have access to an internet connection at home and are increasingly embracing the digital economy. Eighty-eight per cent of household internet users engaged in one or more ecommerce activities and 69 per cent purchased at least one good or service in the last six months. While email is the most widespread use of a home internet connection across all age groups (94 per cent of those who have an internet connection), social networking is equally popular for the youngest age group (91 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 years) and is more likely than email to be the main form of communication for this age group. The use of social networking declines with age, to a low of 15 per cent of internet users aged 65 years and over (ACMA 2011).The authority found that age, gender, household income, level of education and employment influenced the level and way in which consumers engage in ecommerce. In general, consumers with higher levels of education, income and in some form of employment were more likely to participate. The incidence of ecommerce activity is shown to decrease with age, while the types of goods or services purchased online differ across age groups. Respondents aged 25 to 34 years had the highest incidence of purchasing online: 82 per cent had purchased a good or service online. This figure decreases in a linear fashion to 38 per cent for people aged 65 years and above.

The typical ebook consumer differs somewhat from the typical print book buyer. A 2010 survey by the US Book Industry Study Group found that 51 per cent of ebook consumers were men, while women are the largest buyers of print books. Ebook consumers are also more affluent than print book buyers.

The Australian survey conducted by TNS Global confirmed that Australian men were more likely to purchase an ebook (Figure 16) and revealed that younger consumers – those aged between 18 and 34 years – purchased as many ebooks as all other age groups combined.

Figure 16: Ebook demographics, by gender




Source: Cover to cover, Figure 26, p. 32.


Individuals who made submissions to the Book Industry Strategy Group generally embraced digital technologies such as ebooks and purchasing books online. A majority of respondents in the category of ‘individuals’ said they read ebooks, and a significant majority noted that their use of ebooks complements their use of print books. Those who have embraced ereading technologies said that ebooks were convenient to access, easier to store and search, and were hugely beneficial for people in remote areas or with disabilities. This was supported by the consumer survey (see Figure 17).

Figure 17: Nominated main benefits of an ebook over a print book





Vision Australia, which represents close to 300,000 Australians, emphasised that digital books offer opportunities to reduce the barriers that people with a vision impairment face in attempting to read the books of their choice, through synthetic speech, braille, and screen-magnification software.

Retirees, represented by the Association of Independent Retirees, overwhelmingly prefer to purchase, borrow and lend the printed book. It is generally believed that only those retirees who live in remote locations, do not have physical access to a library, are no longer able to drive, have a disability or are confined to a residence are likely to demand ebooks. However, this view is less likely to apply to younger retirees, such as the baby boom generation.

A majority of respondents saw great benefits in ebooks, but consumers have expressed some frustration with the transition to digital books. Key concerns include:

  • the myriad of ebook formats and the issue of device interoperability

  • high initial start-up costs to purchase ereading technologies

  • a lack of titles available for download in Australia

  • the price of ebooks, particularly as they have no resale value and sharing is difficult.

Libraries

Through the BISG public submission process, libraries reflected a willingness to adopt ebooks and associated technologies, with digitisation of content an integral part of contemporary Australian libraries. The National Library of Australia has been building and delivering a digital collection for well over a decade. The State Library of Western Australia has a policy that digital resources will be collected in preference to print within budget constraints and current standards. The University of Tasmania Library remarked that electronic journals and databases now account for a major part of its acquisitions budget.

The benefits of digital delivery specific to libraries included that collections are more accessible, that ereading technologies encourage people to read, and that the digital world offers solutions for disabled and vision-impaired readers. Practical benefits include the fact that library staff spend less time shelving, checking books in and out and collecting fines.

While the benefits of ebooks and the digitisation of content are broadly recognised, there are three primary concerns: equality of access, copyright and affordability for institutions and individuals.

Access

Libraries seek to ensure equitable access to information for users in all geographic locations. The development of a reliable broadband infrastructure to facilitate equality in the provision of online services to regional and remote communities is seen as a priority.

Affordability

Educational libraries at both the school and tertiary level have raised concerns about the additional cost of technology to support digital books. Educational institutions face a choice between the cost of ereaders plus ongoing licence fees to access individual ebooks, or the purchase of a printed book that is not subject to ongoing subscription costs.

Copyright

Copyright and licensing is an important issue for libraries because they need to continuously balance the rights of copyright owners with the rights of the public to gain access to information. In the case of digital media, the owner of the resource is not the purchaser, but the publisher, who permits use of the resource through a subscription. This model relies on continued yearly licences and downloads to specific machines, which limits the transfer of the resource and adds additional costs for further downloads. Digital rights management is challenging the traditional library model in terms of how their clients are able to obtain, store, retrieve and use information. The inability for libraries to loan ebooks efficiently is an issue that may offset the benefits of
digital delivery.

Educators

Like libraries, educational institutions have already started to invest heavily in technologies that create a transition from print to digital materials and that in turn will significantly affect the Australian publishing industry. Submissions to the Book Industry Strategy Group stated that technological advances, such as the development of ebooks, have fundamentally changed the learning environment for both teachers and students, bringing benefits such as greater student access to educational materials, more certainty of availability, and improved speed of delivery – particularly for students in regional and remote Australia and people with disabilities.

The key concerns for educators mirror those of libraries. In addition, educators have concerns about the impact of globalisation on curricula and on the practice of copyright.

Emerging trends in digital readership

The ebook market

In Australia, the ebook market is relatively immature. However, the TNS Global Market Research consumer survey commissioned for the Book Industry Strategy Group by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2011 revealed the future preference of consumers and their reading habits. Of those who have been exposed to an ebook, 40 per cent indicated their preference to purchase only an ebook version of a newly released book; roughly one-third would purchase only a print version; and 24 per cent would purchase both ebook and print versions. The key reasons given for the preference for ebooks over print books were portability, ease of storage, speed and convenience in downloading and price. These findings reflect similar results from consumer surveys in the United States, where affordability, ease of downloading, readability, instant access and portability were the key factors influencing the decision to purchase an ebook.

Around 30 per cent of respondents to the survey who purchased an ebook in 2010 said that they would likely buy more in 2011. Furthermore, consumers who were familiar with or interested in both print and ebooks expressed a slight preference for purchasing an ebook version of a newly released book rather than a print version. Table 1 summarises consumer intentions regarding print and ebooks in 2010 and 2011. Findings from the public submissions show that all groups believe that the use of ebooks is likely to grow.

Table 1: Expected growth in print and ebook sales, 2010–11




Print books

ebooks

Proportion of population who purchased in 2010

75.8%

6.2%

Proportion of population who are likely to purchase in 2011

76.7%

12.2%

Number of units per person purchased in 2010

7.2

3.0

Number of units per person expected to be purchased in 2011

7.5

5.0

Growth in volume and sales from 2010 to 2011

5.0%

230.8%
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