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Source: Cover to cover, Table 2, p. 39.
Notwithstanding the increase in demand for ebooks, demand for print books is predicted to remain stable over the short term. Print books are seen to have some significant advantages over ebooks relating to ownership and the ability to share. Additionally, the emotional attachment to the print book was strongly expressed in the public submissions and validated by a group of the population in the TNS survey. Some of the comments from the public submissions include ‘there is nothing like the touch, the smell and feel of a book’ or ‘a printed book is a wonderfully sensual and enchanting experience’. Some readers believe that, for these reasons, the printed book will continue to exist in some form.
Tablet and ereader penetration
A key factor likely to influence the size of the ebook market in Australia is the extent to which consumers purchase devices that allow them to read ebooks. The TNS survey of Australian consumers sought to further define the market for ebook readers in Australia. According to the survey, 28 per cent of respondents read ebooks using a Kindle (see Figure 18). The next most popular devices are the iPad (22 per cent); a personal computer, laptop or netbook (21 per cent); and a smartphone (11 per cent). Using the results of the survey, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that there are more than 500,000 ereaders in Australia (not including iPads, smartphones, or computers and laptops), 70 per cent (or 370,000) of which are Kindles.
Figure 18: Devices used by respondents to read ebooks
Source: Cover to cover, Figure 35, p. 41.
Availability of ebooks
The availability of ebooks is a critical issue in determining the future size of the ebook market in Australia (Lee 2010). A sufficient range of titles is required to ensure that supply is matched with demand. Globally, there is a wealth of ebooks available to readers. The United States Kindle store, for example, has more than 800,000 titles, while there are ‘an additional 1.8 million free ebooks in the public domain that can be downloaded from Amazon’ (PwC 2011: p 42). Barnes & Noble, meanwhile, contends that it is the world’s largest ebook store with more than 2 million ebook titles.
The available evidence (primarily of a qualitative nature) suggests, however, that there are constraints on the availability of ebooks in Australia. For example:
This evidence suggests that the availability of supply may act as a constraint on the expansion of the ebook market in Australia over the short to medium term.
Potential substitution of print books by digital books
Two important questions in determining the trends in ebook consumption and the likely size of the ebook market – particularly relative to the print book market – in the short to medium term are: will ebook sales expand the total market for books? Or will they cannibalise print book sales? The current evidence linking ebook and print book sales is inconclusive. For instance, Ernst and van der Velde (2009), after analysing usage statistics from SpringerLink in Germany, Greece and Turkey, conclude that ‘not only is [ebook] usage growing dramatically, the print business is not being cannibalised by ebooks, and in some cases ebooks are even driving print book sales’.
Similarly, a consumer survey conducted by Verso Advertising in 2010 in the United States found that only 13 per cent of ebook readers were not planning to purchase a print book over the next 12 months. In contrast:
Drawing on these survey results and others, it is suggested that the choice may not be about either ebooks or print books, but a marketplace where content in multiple formats actually increases book purchasing across the board.
Industry experts in Europe (surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers) have a more nuanced perspective. They all agree that ‘ebooks and printed books will co-exist’. However, they also believe that ‘in certain cases, printed editions will be replaced by digital editions. This is probable particularly in the case of special interest and travel books and in areas in which only sections of books are read’ (PwC 2011: 44).
Drawing on the evidence outlined above, in the short to medium term, ebook sales are likely to expand the total market for books. However, in the longer term the impact on printed books is unclear.
Future of Australian ebook and print book market
Based on the factors discussed above, the total book market in Australia will grow to approximately $2.8 billion in 2014, 24.6 per cent (or $700 million) of which will comprise ebook sales. Of the three potential scenarios illustrated in Figure 19, scenario three is projected to be the likely outcome. Of the $700 million projected value, $500 million will be trade ebook sales (representing 25.7 per cent of the total trade book market) and $200 million will be educational ebook sales (representing 21.4 per cent of the total educational book market).
The value of trade print book sales will grow in line with the three-year average (3.5 per cent) in the short term, before slightly tapering to 3.0 per cent in 2014, while the value of educational print book sales will grow in line with the three-year average (0.9 per cent) in the short term, before slightly tapering to 0.7 per cent in 2014. This taper reflects the belief that ebook sales will slightly cannibalise print book sales in the short to medium term:
Figure 19: Projections of ebook share of Australian book market, by scenario, 2010–14
Source: Cover to cover, Figure 37, p. 47.
The future of the print book market is unclear over the medium to long term. Recent data released by the American Association of Publishers suggest that the cannibalisation effect may be occurring more rapidly than previously expected. Members of the association recorded that their ebook sales grew by 164.4 per cent from 2009 (from US$167 million to $441 million), while their print book sales decreased by 5.1 per cent (from $5.1 billion to $4.9 billion). In May 2011, Amazon announced that it is now selling more ebooks than paperback and hardcover print books combined.
Future of international ebook market
There is a range of available market forecasts for the international ebook market. The Outsell report projects that ‘the worldwide ebook market [will] grow at a compound annual rate of 42 per cent from 2009 to 2012’, increasing from approximately $4.6 billion in 2009 to $13.2 billion in 2012 (May, Fooladi & Worlock 2010). It further predicts that the ebook market will grow at the fastest rate in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (at an annual average rate of 51 per cent), followed by the United States (41 per cent), the Americas (41 per cent) and the Asia–Pacific region (31 per cent).
Figure 20: Projected value of ebook sales as a proportion of total book sales, global
Source: Cover to cover, Figure 39, p. 49.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Global entertainment and media outlook 2010–2014 projects that the value of global ebook sales will increase from $4.7 billion in 2010 to $10.7 billion in 2014 – an annual average increase of 22.5 per cent. The projected rate of global growth in ebook sales is illustrated in Figure 20. According to the survey, the ebook market in the following key international territories will grow strongly in the short to medium term:
While the rate of growth in ebook sales is projected to be the greatest in the United Kingdom over the next three to five years, ebook penetration in the United Kingdom is still expected to lag behind that of the United States, Canada and New Zealand.
Response by the Australian book industry
Authors, agents and other content creators
With very few exceptions, Australian authors make extensive use of digital technologies in their work. Most necessarily do so with a relatively small expenditure on hardware and software; the key tools of trade are a personal computer with standard word-processing and spreadsheet software and a reasonably fast internet connection. Many authors also make use of voice recognition software, and those whose work involves mathematical or scientific material often use specialised add-ons such as equation editing packages, usually by prior agreement with their publishers. Authors also employ a wide variety of digital research tools. There is virtually universal use of the World Wide Web, and those who have electronic access to public or university libraries make use of online databases and subscription journals. Several of the authors interviewed also reported using digital media for research in particular fields.
Liaison with agents is conducted by email, and manuscripts are submitted to agents electronically. Though many consumer book publishers still officially prefer unsolicited submissions to be supplied in printed form (if they accept unsolicited submissions at all), authors are expected to supply their work electronically once it has been accepted for publication.
The impact of digital platforms varies according to the specific publishing subsector.
Reference book publishing
The extensive use of digital platforms for the delivery of reference book material, whether it takes the form of web-based content, online subscriptions or stand-alone ebooks, has required reference and professional publishers to integrate their processes for print and digital production.
Higher education publishing
This highly competitive field has several significant areas of concern for the long-run future of higher education publishing. These include:
Higher education publishers have used digital technologies to adapt their offerings to these new patterns. Some make digital materials available through the universities’ password-protected learning management systems.
For subjects with large enrolments, publishers offer customised textbooks made up of extracts from books on their lists as alternatives to the ubiquitous photocopied course packs. These customised readers are printed digitally for the main print run, with top-up copies produced by print-on-demand, which offers higher reproduction quality than photocopies.
Some publishers offer academics the option of editing, rewriting and supplementing textbooks using publisher’s software to fit specific courses.
To varying degrees, Australia’s few remaining mainstream university presses offer digital editions.
Most of the journals published in Australia are only available digitally and are produced by commercial publishers at commercial prices. This has placed academic libraries under budgetary pressure, which has reduced the libraries’ ability to purchase scholarly monographs. This has had serious implications for university presses and their capacity to publish.
Titles released by the traditional university presses are generally released through ebook and print-on-demand formats.
Several universities have established e-presses (all originally associated with university libraries), which provide free electronic copies of titles by academics at the institution and digital copies of theses, but charge for print-on-demand books.
For well over a decade, publishers of primary and (especially) secondary textbooks have supplemented their print materials with electronic content, such as password-protected websites, classroom exercises and downloadable PowerPoint presentations. The sector is highly competitive and, as in the case of higher education, much of this material has been made available at no cost, provided teachers adopt the relevant textbooks.
Many educational publishers are hoping that a shift to digital books will enable them to repurpose – and charge for – more of the content they produce.
In terms of their forward lists (as opposed to titles already in print), educational publishers are increasingly integrating the preparation of print titles with the production of ebooks. There has been much more widespread use of XML tagging to facilitate the indexing and repurposing of content, and some educational publishers are now having works proofread on screen. The options for incorporating visual material have also been broadened by the availability of digital image libraries, which are open to making agreements with publishers for access to their contents
The release of the Kindle (2009) and Apple iPad (2010) triggered a shift in the approach to digital publishing among trade publishers. While ebooks have been offered by some publishers in PDF form for a number of years, the shift to more versatile formats makes the product viable commercially. Disparities between formats and inconsistencies in metadata standards impose considerable costs and inefficiencies on publishers.
The emergence of digital publishing has ramifications for the workflow of print books. In the past, many publishers released their titles in digital form after they were completed as printed products; however, many are now moving to integrate the two processes so that books are optimised for release in either medium. With few exceptions, such as Lonely Planet, this is a recent development for most publishing firms.
Digitisation has introduced a number of changes to publishing processes:
Book marketing has universally been digitised. In educational, professional and technical publishing, client databases are compiled into email lists for targeted promotion; in trade and consumer publishing, the promotion of titles and author events has largely shifted to the web and to mobile phones.
Digital technologies have also made it possible for publishers and booksellers to receive more timely information about book sales and trends. One example is the advent in 2000 of Nielsen BookScan, a service that collects point-of-sale information directly and generates weekly sales reports.
More generally, publishers have had to pay closer attention to the management of both print and online content, the tracking of publishing workflows, budgeting, royalties and the management of client lists. In the early stages of digital publication management, individual publishing houses tended to devise their own software for these purposes, but especially among the larger publishing houses this has now given way to the use of specialist publishing software.
Developing and acquiring specialist software, managing large client bases and compiling and updating data are
all activities that require a substantial investment of capital and labour. Rising capital requirements have contributed to the consolidation of ownership in the global publishing sector.
Publishers in the small press sector, in Australia as elsewhere, have become increasingly active in the past decade or so as ‘what you see is what you get’ desktop publishing and internet-based communication have reduced the capital costs of preparing books for publication.
For small presses, Twitter and Facebook are overwhelmingly the social media of choice and are almost unanimously seen as promotional tools.
Australian small publishers’ use of electronic publishing is mixed; just under 30 per cent publish ebooks, and 37 per cent use print-on-demand.
Through the BISG workshop series and a 2011 survey compiled by the Copyright Agency Limited, publishers (across all categories) identified their key concerns about the digital environment:
To remain competitive, Australian book printers have adopted a wide range of digital technologies. Publications arrive at the printers as print-ready PDFs prepared using Adobe InDesign, which has become an industry standard. This produces interoperable files that can be printed in a number of ways.
Australian book printers have been moving into the digital arena for several years, partly in response to a joint industry study funded under the Australian Government’s Enhanced Printing Industry Competitiveness Scheme, which identified the need for printers to adapt as book publishing moved towards mass customisation rather than mass production.
Digital printing allows books to be reprinted economically in small numbers; setup costs are lower, and the cost per copy is more constant across the print run. The quantity at which digital printing is more economical than offset has continued to rise, from about 500 copies in 2008, to 2,000 to 3,000 copies in 2011 (depending on the number of pages).
From the printers’ perspective, digital equipment is a major investment. A fast digital web press that includes integrated finishing and binding equipment costs between four and seven million dollars.
Digital printing is especially useful for backlist titles because the numbers sold are generally too small to warrant using offset. General demand for digital printing is growing rapidly; however, much of this is not book printing but the production of training materials, catalogues and similar items.
Further down the quantity scale is print-on-demand, which can be used to print books as single copies. The main reservation many publishers have about print-on-demand is the quality of the resulting books, which are often visibly inferior to web offset or longer-run digital printing.
Globally, digital printing of all kinds is increasing its market share as publishers seek to tailor print runs more closely to demand, avoiding the cost of trade returns and losses from sales of remainders. It is also benefiting from growth in small-press publishing.
Book printers also provide archiving services. Older titles that were printed from film need to undergo conversion before they can be brought back into print. In some cases this involves scanning printed copies of older works to convert them into current file formats. It is difficult, however, for Australian printers to compete with the low-cost options offered by firms in India.
Digital technologies are widely used to speed up ordering systems. This is primarily done through online archiving services that allow publishers to order books by ISBN. Once a book is available in PDF format, it can also be converted into an ebook.
The impact of digitisation on the print industry is significant. While new opportunities exist through digital printing and print-on-demand, the market transition from paper to screen book formats is fundamentally changing the face of the book printing industry. It is generally anticipated that the printed book will continue to have a place in the market, but the ability of Australian printing firms to remain competitive against low-cost Asian
rivals in a shrinking market is an immediate and
Distributors and retailers
Australian retailers are digitising their activities, but the available data on the extent to which this is occurring are old – the latest being the 2003–04 ABS data. That survey also asked retailers about their use of digital technologies. Some key aggregates for booksellers and other retailers are shown in Table 2.
Table 2: Book retailers’ use of digital technologies, key aggregates 2003–04