Bold Predictions: Half of US Publishers Expect E-books to Be Dominant Format by 2014

In English Language by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

NEW YORK: Facts and figures about the e-book business remain elusive. So anyone who can provide some concrete data is a welcome guest at any publishing conference. On Tuesday, James McQuivey, a research analyst at Forrester, served up several intriguing data points as part of the Digital Book World conference taking place in New York this week.

James McQuivey

James McQuivey, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester Research

Forrester’s executive survey reveals retraining personnel may be the biggest challenge publishers face when working digitally.

For starters, Forrester found that 10.5 million people owned e-readers and 20 million people read e-books last year. Approximately $1bn was spent last year on e-books; the firm is predicting that total will hit $1.3bn this year. McQuivey noted that many people are moving toward reading on multiple devices -– be it a smartphone, tablet or e-reader. According to Forrester’s calculations, one out of every three iPad owners also own a Kindle, though it wasn’t clear if they owned a first generation device, which has been on the market several years longer than the iPad, or one of the newer models.

Executives Surveyed

In conjunction with Digital Book World, Forrester also conducted a survey of American publishing executives about the digital future. They spoke to 35 executives representing 27 different companies (firms that are responsible for a total of 65% of overall publishing revenue in the US).

Overall, two-thirds of executives said they felt readers read more because of e-books and 74% felt the that consumers were “better off” because of the introduction of e-books.

For the industry itself, the introduction of digital workflows and e-books meant that each business was likely to encounter personnel issues: 80% of the executives felt that their companies would have to go through significant retraining to handle the digital future.

Executives were divided on whether a tablet an dedicated e-reader was better for reading: 46% said a tablet, 29% said an e-reader, and 25% were undecided.

Either way, the execs were sanguine about the future of sales and, according to the survey, suggesting that e-book sales should increase by 139% this year (which is in line with Forrester’s own prediction noted above, and likely the stat from which they derived their data.)

Feelings about the future of print are mixed. A little more than half –- 53% -– expected print book sales to fall in the next few years. And by 2014, half the executives expect e-books to be the dominant format.

In conclusion McQuivey noted that the digital transition, now that it is here, isn’t going to happen overnight and will likely be prolonged, with a bit shift happening by 2014. Still, he warned, “Fasten your seat belts: you know it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

DISCUSS: Are Publishers Underestimating the Desirability of Print?

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.